New Passport Requirements for Travelers to the U.S.
Over the past several years, the Department of Homeland Security has set forth increasingly stringent rules regarding entry requirements into the United States. Many deadlines have been pushed back multiple times, however, several new passport requirements are to come into effect in the summer and fall of this year.
As of June 26, 2005, all business visitors and tourists from the 27 Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) countries must have a machine readable passport to enter the United States without a visa. The 27 countries participating in the VWP include: 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 June, an average of 100 VWP travelers per day arrived in the United States without machine readable passports. Transportation carriers will be fined $3,300 per violation for transporting any VWP traveler to the United States without a machine readable passport. The only alternative for persons who are unable to obtain a machine readable passport is to apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.
The Department of Homeland Security has also announced that the VWP countries will be required to produce passports with digital photographs by October 26, 2005. In addition, VWP countries will be required to present a plan to begin issuing passports with biometric identifiers contained in integrated circuit chips within one year. These passports are being called “e-passports” and were mandated by the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. The e-passports are already being tested this summer at the Los Angeles International Airport and at the Sydney Airport in Australia by airline crew and officials. Valid passports issued before October 26, 2005, will still be accepted for travel under the VWP provided that the passports are machine readable.