26 October 2006
Deadline passes for US Visa Waiver Program passport requirements
A deadline for countires taking part in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States to start issuing biometric passports to all new applicants has now passed.
Over 13 million people a year benefit from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) when they travel to America, which enables them to enter and stay in the country for up to 90 days on business or leisure without needing a visa.
Under legislation introduced after the September 11 attacks, all passport holders entering under the VWP must contain some biometric data, with different requirements dependent on when the passport was issued.
All new passports issued from today by the 27 Visa Waiver participant countries must now be in the form of an e-Passport, which contain an electronic chip that holds the same information that is printed on the passport's data page: the holder's name, date of birth, and a digital photograph of the holder.
The minimum requirement for passports issued before 26th October 2005 is that they are machine readable. Holders of passports that are not machine readable must either apply for a Tourist or Business Visa (B1 or B2 visa), or apply for a new passport.
United States VWP Passport Requirements
- Issued after 26 Oct 06: Biometric data and chip
- 26 Oct 05 - 26 Oct 06: Digital photo (printed not glued)
- Before 26 Oct 05: Machine-readable zone
- None of above: Travellers must apply for a visa or a new passport
All e-Passports issued by Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries and the United States have security features to prevent the unauthorized reading or "skimming" of data stored on the e-Passport chip.
Travellers to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must also meet the following requirements:
- Be travelling to America for a period of 90 days or less;
- Have a passport valid for 6 months beyond your intended visit;
- Be a citizen of a country which holds a visa waiver agreement with America;
- Provide evidence you intend to depart the country, such as a return ticket; and
- Be of good character.