In a move applauded by planners who bring international visitors to special events in the United States, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ( www.dhs.gov) announced last week that it will delay the deadline for 27 countries in the Visa Waiver Program to begin issuing passports with biometric data till October 2006.
U.S.-bound travelers from VWP countries--which number some 15 million every year, according to DHS—can continue to enter without a visa. But their home countries must begin issuing passports with securely embedded digital photographs by Oct. 26 of this year. Older passports will be grandfathered in provided that these passports are machine-readable. The deadline for VWP countries to begin issuing passports with biometric data—called e-passports—is now extended to Oct. 26, 2006.
The 27 VWP countries are Andorra, Australia, 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.
DHS and the State Department will conduct a live test of e-passports this summer at Los Angeles International Airport and Sydney Airport using volunteer airline crews from United Airlines, Air New Zealand and Quantas