Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03092541 (posted Sep. 25, 2003)"
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
New York City
Machine-Readable Passports for Visa Waiver Program Travel
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
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.