in the United States from 27 countries participating in
the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) face some new requirements
starting October 26.
Passports issued on or after that date must
bear a digital photo of the holder. Otherwise, the traveler
will need a visa to travel to the United States. Visitors
with valid machine-readable passports issued prior to October
26 may continue to travel without a visa under the program.
The VWP enables citizens of 27 countries
to visit the United States for tourism or business for up
to 90 days without obtaining a visa.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security
issued a press release October 18 reminding travelers of
the VWP requirements, which are part of an ongoing initiative
to increase U.S. security and security for the international
traveling public. (See related
The U.S. government will fine airlines that
carry passengers without documents that meet the new requirements,
the release says. Those travelers also will be refused entry
to the United States.
According to the department, the majority
of VWP countries already issue passports with a digital
photo. Homeland Security anticipates that three countries
-- Italy, Austria and France -- will not have enough digital
photo production capabilities in operation to fully meet
the requirement by October 26, but said it will continue
to work closely with these countries to certify their full
compliance as soon as possible.
details and examples of the proper documents are available
on the Homeland Security Web site. Information on the Visa
Waiver Program and how to apply for a U.S. visa is available
The 27 countries participating in the Visa
Waiver Program 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.
Ongoing information about visa requirements
is available at Visas
The text of the DHS press release follows:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Digital Photo Deadline for Passports Approaching
Office of the Press Secretary
October 18, 2005 The Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) is reminding visitors that Visa Waiver Program
(VWP) countries will be required to produce passports with
digital photographs by October 26, 2005. The requirement
for digital photographs is part of a multi-layered approach
to increasing the security of our citizens and visitors
by helping to ensure the integrity of their travel documents.
DHS recognizes the importance of travel
and trade -- particularly from VWP nations -- to our own
economic and cultural well-being. This is another critical
step among many that are bringing us closer to realizing
a future vision of a world in which travel around the globe
is secure for legitimate visitors and extremely difficult
for those who would do us harm.
Visitors with valid machine-readable passports
issued prior to October 26, 2005, may continue to travel
without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. Passports
issued on or after October 26, 2005 require the digital
photo. Visitors who are issued a passport after the October
26 deadline that does not meet these requirements will be
required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States.
Visitors can tell whether their passport
meets these requirements if it contains a digital photograph
that is printed on the page, not glued or laminated into
the document. Digital photographs offer more security against
counterfeiting than traditional photographs. Passport guidelines
and samples showing what to look for to determine if a passport
is in compliance can be viewed on the DHS website.
Beginning October 26, 2005, transportation
carriers will be fined up to $3,300, per violation, for
transporting any visitor traveling under the Visa Waiver
Program to the United States who does not meet these requirements.
Similarly, visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program
arriving in the United States on that date without the proper
passport should not anticipate being granted entry into
This prerequisite is mandated by the Enhanced
Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 which
calls for any passport issued after October 26, 2005, and
used for VWP travel, to include a biometric identifier,
such as a digital photo. After extensive consultation with
Congress and the Department of State, DHS announced the
digital photo requirement on June 15, 2005.
In general, digital photographs provide
more security against counterfeiting than traditional photographs.
While counterfeiting of both traditional and digital photographs
can take place, photo switching on the passport data page
is generally easier and cheaper to attempt with traditional
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.
The majority of VWP countries already issue
passports with a digital photo integrated into the data
page. However, DHS anticipates that three countries -- Italy,
Austria and France -- will not have enough digital photo
production capabilities in operation by October 26, 2005
to replace all passports that will expire with digital photos.
DHS will continue to work closely with these countries to
certify their full compliance as soon as possible. In the
case of Austria, DHS expects compliance with the digital
photo requirement in summer 2006. Until that time, Austrians
traveling to the U.S. with passports expiring after October
26, 2005 should plan to obtain a visa. In the case of France
and Italy, DHS recognizes that certain municipalities will
have digital photo capabilities to accommodate the new requirements
as of October 26, 2005. However, neither country will have
100% coverage by the deadline. Therefore, travelers from
these countries are urged to contact their local passport
issuance offices to obtain information on whether a digital
passport can be issued. If not, DHS urges travelers to obtain
a visa prior to travel to the U.S.
Instructions to apply for a U.S. visa are
available at http://www.travel.state.gov/, by calling the
Department of State’s Visa Services center at (202)
663-1225, or by contacting the nearest consulate or embassy.