One-year delay in US passport requirement

16th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

16 June 2004, WASHINGTON - The US House of Representatives has voted for a one-year postponement for visa-waiver countries to begin issuing passports with biometric data, a congressional spokeswoman said Tuesday.

16 June 2004

WASHINGTON - The US House of Representatives has voted for a one-year postponement for visa-waiver countries to begin issuing passports with biometric data, a congressional spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Citizens from those 27 countries in Europe and Asia can enter the United States for up to 90 days without visas.

The one-year House measure, considered a compromise proposal, would still need to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president to stave off the 26 October deadline.

In April, US Secretary of State Colin Powell had urged Congress to postpone the biometric passport requirement for two years. He argued that friendly countries in Europe and Asia need more time to develop technologies that would allow US border security agents to instantly confirm identities using information encoded in passports.

If the deadline is not postponed, citizens of visa-waiver countries will have to undergo the same security measures instituted earlier this year that require all other travellers to undergo digital thumb-printing and photographing as they enter the United States.

Currently, that rule only applies to countries whose citizens must have a visa to enter the United States.

The visa-waiver countries that must meet the new standards are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Under legislation passed by Congress after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, travellers to the United States from the 27 visa-waiver countries would have to carry passports with some form of digitised physical identifier, such as fingerprints.

Remaining technical problems need to be solved to ensure that the passport data is both secure and readable, and that chips storing biometric information are durable enough to be reliable for the life of the passports, according to the US State Department.

Without an extension, travellers from the 27 countries with favourable access will have to acquire visas, increasing the visa processing workload by 70 percent and bogging down US embassies and consulates. It could also discourage foreigners from coming to the United States, officials have warned.

The US government has also struggled to develop the technology needed to store information on passports for its own citizens.

The January implementation of the photo and thumbprint requirement for citizens of countries not on the visa waiver list angered countries such as Brazil and China. Brazil retaliated by mandating that US citizens provide a full set of ink fingerprints when entering the country.

DPA

Subject: German news

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