The requirement for Visa Waiver travelers to have biometrics included in their passports has been extended for one year, to October 26, 2005. All newly issued passports must be biometrically enabled by this time. The extension was necessary to avoid potential disruption of international travel and to allow for adequate time to develop programs for producing a more secure, biometrically enabled passport by those countries enrolled in Visa Waiver programs.
Because of security concerns related to this extension, the Department of Homeland Security will begin enrolling Visa Waiver Program travelers through the US-VISIT program (U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) at all airports and seaports on September 30, 2004. Enrollment in US-VISIT allows the United States to continue its international efforts to enhance border security, while facilitating legitimate travel. The US-VISIT system requires two digital index finger scans, and a digital photograph of the traveler to verify his or her identity.
The second requirement for Visa Waiver Program travelers will come into effect on October 26, 2004. From that date on, all passports used for travel in the Visa Waiver Program must be machine-readable. Last year, the Secretary of State granted a postponement until October 26, 2004, making this the new date by which Visa Waiver Program travelers from 21 countries must present a machine-readable passport to be admitted to the United States without a visa.
Glossary of Terms:
Biometric Passport - contains a computer chip containing the holder's photograph and personal information on the current passport, including name and date of birth, and a set of measurable personal features such as an iris image scan or fingerprints as identification markers.
Machine Readable Passport - contains two lines of printed OCR-B machine-readable data. The size of the passport, the arrangement of data fields and the photograph meet the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
US-VISIT Program - requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the U.S. on a visa have their two index fingers scanned, and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity at the port of entry. Visas are required for most students, some business travelers and millions of other visitors, regardless of where they live. A departure confirmation program using automated kiosks is being tested at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at select Miami Seaport cruise line terminals. Travelers leaving from either of these ports are required to confirm their departure at the kiosk by checking out, which involves scanning their passport or visa, and repeating the scanning of two index fingers. Currently the officials are evaluating the automated kiosk tests and considering alternatives for departure confirmation throughout 2004.
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