25 September 2003
State Department Announces Delay in Requirement for Hi-Tech Passport
Machine-readable passports to be required for
travelers from five nations October 1
The U.S. State Department has announced a postponement in implementation
of a new requirement that travelers from nations involved in the
visa waiver program carry a machine-readable passport. The requirement
for the modernized document will take effect October 26 rather
than October 1 as originally proposed. A statement issued by Spokesman
Richard Boucher September 24 says that 21 nations had requested
the postponement, which was granted in view of the efforts the
nations are making to ensure that machine-readable passports are
The requirement for machine readable passports will take effect
October 1 for travelers from five nations in the visa waiver program.
Nations participating in the visa waiver program have met certain
criteria that indicate that their citizens are at a low risk of
violating the provisions of a U.S. visa.
The U.S. requirement for machine-readable passports is in keeping
with security advisories from the International Civil Aviation
Further information on the visa waiver program is available at
Further information about machine-readable passports is available
Following is the text of the Boucher statement:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(New York, New York)
September 24, 2003
Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Machine-Readable Passports for Visa Waiver Program Travel Postponed
The Secretary of State has granted a postponement until October
26, 2004, as the date by which Visa Waiver Program travelers from
21 countries must present a machine-readable passport at a U.S.
port of entry to be admitted to the country without a visa. The
Department of State consulted with the Department of Homeland Security
before making this decision.
The countries for which the postponement has been granted are:
Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland,
Ireland, Italy, Japan, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,
Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and
the United Kingdom.
Each country to which this postponement was granted made a formal
request and certified that it is making progress toward ensuring
that machine readable passports are available to its nationals
and that it has taken appropriate measures to protect against misuse
of its non-machine-readable passports.
Five other eligible countries did not request a postponement of
the effective date, because virtually all of their citizens already
have machine-readable passports. Those countries are Andorra, Brunei,
Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Slovenia. As of October 1, 2003,
visa waiver travelers from those five countries must present either
a machine-readable passport or a United States visa.
Belgium, which is also a visa waiver country, was not eligible
to receive this extension. Belgian nationals who wish to travel
under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program have been required
to present a machine-readable passport since May 15, 2003. This
requirement was stipulated in the Department of Justice's review
of Belgium's continued eligibility to participate in the Visa Waiver
Program in February 2003.
The Secretary's authority to postpone the effective date for a
visa waiver country's citizens to present a machine-readable passport
is contained in the USA Patriot Act, which legislated the requirement
for visa waiver travelers.
Citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries are permitted to enter
the United States for general business or tourist purposes for
a maximum of 90 days without needing a visa.