Travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Countries Must Now Have Machine Readable Passports: Law is in Full Effect

E-Passport Deadline for VWP Countries Extended One Year

Citizens of the twenty-seven VWP (Visa Waiver Program) countries must carry machine-readable passports by the end of the grace period on June 26, 2005, or they will not be admitted to the US without a visa. VWP countries 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.

In a related development, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that by October 26, 2005, countries choosing to continue participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must produce passports with digital photos and provide an acceptable plan to begin issuing e-passports containing integrated circuit chips within one year. Initially, according to the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, the biometric identifier was to have been included in VWP country passports by October 26, 2005; however, many countries were encountering difficulty in having the requisite technology ready in time to meet that deadline. Consequently, the deadline for issuance of e-passports has been extended by one year to October 26, 2006, and the date for validating the e-passports to insure their integrity prior to the new issue date is September 1, 2006.

The integrated circuit chip will store biographic information from the passport's data page, a digitized photo, and other biometric data traditionally found in documents used for travel. If a valid passport is issued prior to October 26, 2005, even if it does not have a digital photo, it will continue to be accepted for VWP travel as long it is machine-readable. In order to fortify document security DHS is requiring VWP countries to begin following specific steps regarding lost and stolen passports. These steps include reporting such occurrences to INTERPOL and DHS and enhancing the exchange of information between the United States and other VWP countries so that trends and analysis regarding lost and stolen passports can be tracked.

Bonnie Gibson was an attorney in the Littler Mendelson Bacon and Dear office. If you would like further information, please contact your Littler attorney at 1.888.Littler or

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.