EU/US passport technology war

US unlikely to extend October 2005 deadline requiring biometric passports.

The US looks unlikely to extend the October 2005 deadline requiring European travellers to have passports with biometric capabilities, when visiting the US without a visa.

The European Union wants the deadline extended to August 2006, but an initial response from the US House Judiciary Committee has said an extension is unlikely considering the concern for homeland security in the US.

In retaliation, the EU may decide that it will require US citizens to obtain visas to travel to EU countries, if their US passports do not contain digitised facial data.

The US wants Europeans to use passports with biometric features that support facial recognition by 26 October. The deadline has already been extended from the original deadline of 26 October 2004.

Last year, as part of its move towards biometrics, US Customs started to demand only machine-readable passports from Europeans and to take their digitised fingerprints and photographs on arrival.

All EU countries will not be ready with biometric photographs on passports until the end of August, hence the request for a further extension.

The UK government is planning to begin including a chip with biometric facial identifiers in passports only by the end of this year or early next year, meaning it will miss the US deadline.

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