of October 26, visitors entering the United States under the
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must have machine-readable passports,
or the traveler must apply for a visa to enter the country.
But immigration officers will offer noncompliant travelers
from 22 VWP countries a one-time exemption from the requirement
and admit them to the United States.
Border officers will make note of the exemption
on the passport and inform the travelers of their need for
the updated passport or a visa. On subsequent visits, if
travelers do not have a machine-readable passport or a visa,
they could be refused entry, according to DHS.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced
it will not impose fines on transportation carriers for
transporting VWP travelers from 22 countries to the U.S.
without a machine-readable passport through April 25, 2005.
The 22 countries are: Austria, Australia, Denmark, Finland,
France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg,
Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San
Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United
Following is a statement on the program
prepared by the U.S. Mission to the EU in Brussels:
U.S. Mission to the European Union
October 22, 2004
Beginning October 26, 2004, officers from
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau
of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin enforcing
requirements that travelers applying for admission under
the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must be in possession of a
machine-readable passport. Following procedures announced
today, if, after October 26, 2004, a Visa Waiver Program
national presents him or herself for admission to the United
States without a machine-readable passport or non-immigrant
visa, a CBP officer is permitted to grant a one-time exemption
to admit the traveler to the United States. The traveler
will be issued a letter explaining the U.S. entry requirements
and his or her passport will be annotated that a one-time
exemption has been granted.
"These interim procedures will allow
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to effectively
enforce the law and exercise discretion when appropriate,"
said DHS Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security
Asa Hutchinson. "These are prudent steps to ease travelers
into these new documentation requirements. The United States
is a welcoming nation and we do not want to turn people
away because they do not possess the newly required passport
or a valid non-immigrant visa."
When granting the exemption, CBP officers
will notify the traveler of the requirement for a machine-readable
passport or that they can obtain a non-immigrant visa for
subsequent visits. If a traveler fails to obtain a machine-readable
passport or a non-immigrant visa for subsequent visits,
they may be refused entry under the VWP.
Each VWP applicant must present an individual
machine-readable passport. This is a change for family members
who have applied for admission under one passport in the
past. As announced last year, families must have individual
machine-readable passports for everyone, including children.
CBP officers can apply the same one-time exemption to families
The new machine-readable document requirement
had been scheduled to go into effect last year. Since the
U.S. announced it was extending the implementation date
from October 1, 2003, until October 26, 2004, VWP countries
have been taking steps to issue machine-readable passports
and to communicate information about these new requirements
to their citizens. To help their citizens comply with the
new document requirements, some countries are even offering
to issue new machine-readable passports on the spot to their
citizens at departure airports.
Through April 25, 2005, U.S. Customs and
Border Protection will not impose fines on transportation
carriers for transporting VWP travelers from 22 countries
to the U.S. without a machine-readable passport. The 22
countries are: Austria, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Monaco,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino,
Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Congress has extended the deadline for the
inclusion of biometrics in VWP-country passports until October
26, 2005. This does not affect the current requirements
for machine-readable passports. An estimated 13 million
visitors from Visa Waiver Countries enter the U.S. each
year. Travelers from Visa Waiver Countries are allowed to
enter the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure
using only a passport.
More information can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/tempvisitors_novisa_waiver.html