The deadline for the introduction of biometric passports for US Visa Waiver countries has now passed.
From today, 26 October, all countries currently taking part in the US Visa Waiver programme will have to issue new biometric passports to their citizens. Current passport holders in the UK will still be able to visit the US without a visa, but their passport will have to carry machine readable personal details at least.
A deadline was previously set for all Visa Waiver countries to issue passports with digital photos. The UK has met the deadlines for both the digital photo and biometric requirements when issuing new passports.
Those UK users with a glued in photo can still visit the US without a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport. The UK has been issuing biometric passports since this spring, and they contain a chip with face-mapping technology that matches the digital photo in the passport and the personal details at the back.
The biometric passports are supposedly designed to counter forgeries. The US was originally demanding the distribution of biometric passports by 26 October 2005, but the deadline was put back after the European Union said many countries would not be ready.
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The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has contracted IBM to build a database to support the Government's switch to biometric passports.