Deadline Set for New US Business, Tourist Visa Requirements
Some visitors to the US will need new passports by October 26
WASHINGTON, DC - 08/18/04 - Visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must have machine-readable passports by October 26, or the traveler must apply for a visa to enter the country, according to the US Department of State.
"This means that if you are from one of the 27 countries in the Visa Waiver Program and want to travel [to the United States] for basic tourism or business without a visa, you must have a passport that has two typeface lines at the bottom of the passport that contains, in a machine readable form, the information on your biographic page, that is, the photo page [of your passport]," said a spokesman for the State Department's Office of Consular Affairs in Washington, DC.
Previously, citizens of VWP countries have been able to travel to the US without visas.
Countries currently participating in the VWP are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Asked how travelers can know whether their passports are machine-readable, the spokesman said, "They should look at the bottom of their passport [the photo page] for two lines that are typeface lines, that have letters, numbers and hatch marks."
The two lines at the bottom of a machine-readable passport, for example, would look like the following:
LINE 1: P COUNTRY LAST NAME << FIRST NAME < MIDDLE NAME <<<<<
LINE 2: PASSPORT NUMBER COUNTRY DOB<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
With this technology, the lines include the biographical data on the photo page of the passport so that when a machine-readable passport is swiped through a machine-reader, the information would come up and it should match up to the biographic page of the passport.
If it doesn't, "then there is obviously going to be concerns that it [the passport] has been fraudulently altered," the spokesman said.
The US government first issued a machine-readable passport in 1981.
Persons traveling from countries where obtaining a visa is standard practice will not be required to have machine-readable passports.
In addition to the October 26 deadline for the machine-readable travel documents, by September 30, 2004, all VWP travelers arriving at a US port of entry will be required to enroll in US-VISIT, a program in which the traveler is photographed and digitally fingerprinted at the immigration checkpoint.
More information about machine-readable passports is available at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/tempvisitors_novisa_waiver.html
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