Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03091042 (posted Sep. 10, 2003)"
DOS Spokesman Addresses Visa Waiver Rules for Machine-Readable
The following is excerpted from the 9/9/03 State Dept. press briefing:
“QUESTION: Can you talk about the decision not to enact the
passport restrictions on a number of countries, and also whether
you're getting responses back from those countries that they will
indeed try to enact machine-readable passports within the next year or
two to avoid the restrictions?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, it's a decision that has not yet been
made. And the Secretary's not yet made a final decision on whether to grant the
postponement to any country's passport holders. But we are considering
postponing until October 26th, 2004, the requirement that each Visa Waiver
Program traveler must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. Port of
Entry to be admitted to the country without a visa. The Secretary's authority to
postpone the effective date for a visa waiver, country's citizens, is contained
in the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which legislated the same equirement, that visa
waiver travelers have these machine-readable passports.
Visa Waiver Program countries are being asked to send a Diplomatic
Note to the Department of State acknowledging that the waiver will be granted
only once, and that it would expire on October 26th, 2004. Any country
requesting this postponement must also certify that it's making progress towards
ensuring that machine-readable passports are available to its nationals, and
that it has taken appropriate measures to protect against misuse of
non-machine-readable passports. We're also consulting with the Department of
Homeland Security before making this decision on one-time waivers.
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. There are 27 countries currently in this program; we can
get you a list later. Footnote, Belgium won't be eligible to receive this
waiver. That requirement was -- there's been a requirement since May 15, 2003,
that Belgian nationals present machine-readable passports. That was stipulated
after our review of the continued eligibility of Belgian nationals to
participate in the Visa Waiver Program. That was done in February of this year,
QUESTION: So why are you asking these countries to give you responses if
you haven't even decided that you're going to --
MR. BOUCHER: Because in order to make the decision, in order to
exercise the waiver, we want to know that they're prepared to do those things.
And once we have that information, the Secretary will be in a position to make a
final decision on whether to grant the waivers.
QUESTION: Any idea -- what kind of response you've gotten yet?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not yet. We'll have to collect it together and get
it to the Secretary when it comes in.”