US delay for biometric passports

By EDRi · June 15, 2005

The US has signalled that it will modify its biometric passport requirements for travellers from Visa Waiver countries. EU countries have been struggling to meet an October 2005 deadline set by the US to introduce new passports with biometric identifiers.

The 2002 US Border Security Act demands from 27 countries the inclusion of chips with facial images in their passports, in order to continue participation in the US Visa Waiver programme. A deadline was set for 26 October 2004 after which citizens from most EU countries would either have to present a biometric passport or a visa to enter the US. In June 2004 the US House of Representatives agreed to a one-year extension until 26 October 2005.

But most EU countries will not be able to introduce passports with contactless chips by that time. Travellers from those countries would have to apply for visa if the US maintains its demands. This would result in a chilling effect on US tourism and commerce while overstressing the US consular system with visa applications. Governments on both sides of the ocean have been looking for an acceptable solution.

The US are expected to continue to waive the visa for countries that put a digital scan of the holder’s photo in the passport. A deadline for the implementation of contactless chips with a digital image will be further delayed. The solution would not help Italy and France. Both countries still put laminated pictures into their passports. Travellers from those countries would be required to apply for visa starting October 2005 if the US will proceed as reported.

U.S. to Delay Stricter Passport Standards (14.06.2005)

US backs down from biometric passports deadline (09.06.2005)