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New US Passport and Visa Rules - as at 19th January 2004


There has been a great deal of speculation recently about new passport and visa requirements for UK citizens travelling to the US.

According to the American Embassy in London the situation is as follows:

The vast majority of UK citizens will continue to be eligible to travel to the U.S. visa free by using the Visa Waiver Program which is currently in place.

The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2002 does require that all persons travelling visa free to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program have a biometric chip identifier in their passport by October 26, 2004.

Those travellers who use passports issued after October 26, 2004, that do not contain a biometric identifier, will be required to obtain a U.S. visa. That visa will contain biometric information.

However, UK officials have made clear that they do not anticipate that they will be able to begin issuing passports with biometric chips by October 26 2004, raising the possibility that some UK citizens will need to obtain a tourist/business visa for travel to the U.S.

Those UK travellers who use machine-readable passports lacking a biometric chip but issued before October 26, 2004 will be able to continue to use the Visa Waiver Program until that passport expires, and until that time will not need a visa for travel to the US.

In summary therefore, the only UK citizens travelling to the US who will be affected by the new rules are:

* Travellers who currently hold a machine readable passport that will expire after the 26 October 2004 and before the new biometric passports are available for issue. These people will have to obtain a tourist/business visa for travel to the US after expiry of their current passport.

* Travellers whose passports were issued outside the UK where the facility to issue machine readable passports was not available. This group should apply for a machine readable passport well before 26 October 2004

* Children travelling on the same passport as either of their parents will now require their own machine readable passport and should apply well before 26 October 2004.



Any passenger whose passport will expire around the implementation date of 26 October 2004 should ensure that it is renewed well ahead of that date.
 

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Biometrics are biological measures bio and metric (measure).

The chip is an electronic store for the measurement. In practice this is either a scan of your eye (iris or retina) or hand (palm/fingerprint) although in theory it could be any unique body part !!

The problem/issue is that the yanks are imposing the need for a bio-passport and the rest of the world must follow.  Hence they set the standard and we have to have a compatible system.  This favours the US biometric companies rather than European companies (like Siemens) that are also developing biometrics.  (Siemens provide the IT infrastructure and systems for the UK passport office).

A second aspenct is that lots of people do not like the idea of some biometric measure of theirs being held on a database.  The "official" line is that the measure is held on the chip and you own the chip.  There is no big brother database.  The UK government (if you trust them!) have said they will not compile such a database (they did say they wouldn't let more flights into Heathrow as well).
However, the US government has made no such undertaking so they could collect the data electronically as people pass their borders and compile a database - overtly or covertly.

Best best is not to get a bio passport or to go to the US and let them scan your bits....

The other area of concern is idiot Blunkett's biometric ID cards that will follow from the bio-passport US lead initiative..

Big brother is around the corner and not the Channel 4 rubbish either.

Chris
(biometrics consultant since you ask - sorry boring or what?)
 

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Good to get the full SP, I've been wondering what exactly a biometric chip entailed.

TBH, I think Governments are just getting carried away with technology, for instance, we've got more CCTV cameras than any other nation, but do we have a lower crime rate or greater capture/conviction rate ?
Somehow I think not.
  THere was a survey on the radio recently where it was found that 90% of people, (they didn't say how big the sample size was) would, if given the option, emigrate.
Hmmmm..... sounds like a decent idea if our future is going to be so Orwellian
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Bren Tierney @ Jan. 21 2004,09:15)]* Travellers whose passports were issued outside the UK where the facility to issue machine readable passports was not available. This group should apply for a machine readable passport well before 26 October 2004
That's me then


My passport was issued by the British Embassy in Tokyo. I hope other countries don't follow suit  - my non-machine-readable passport doesn't expire until 2009!!
 

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Ginger, Irish, sometimes stroppy
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Can anyone confirm what I heard with regard to Biometrics for Brazil?

I heard Brazil is insisting that all US citizens have biometrics and will be checked as they enter....but it will only apply to US citizens (its more about getting their own back than security
).
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Steve W @ Jan. 21 2004,10:25)]THere was a survey on the radio recently where it was found that 90% of people, (they didn't say how big the sample size was) would, if given the option, emigrate.
Sadly if the US forces us to have a bio-passport I think that the UK will follow suit and this will then become the "norm" for European ID cards.  Spain uses this technology already for its welfare system and face recognition software is in use by police forces throughout Europe.

Already the US snoops on UK mobile phones and cross Atlantic phone calls.  US citizens have a right to know about this through the freedom of information act, but we in Europe cannot find out what the US knows about us.  In the UK there is no freedom of information so you cannot find out what the government, or its agencies like GCHQ [the email snoops] are collecting about you and passing on to the yanks..

I should shut up now - some web bot is already looking.....

Chris
 

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Anyone know the deal if you hold an RoI passport?


Peter
 

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Ginger, Irish, sometimes stroppy
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I believe the same applies with regard to current passports for all EU nationalities. But I find it can easier travelling to the States on a Uk, rather than an Irish passport. But its good to have the choice
 

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AFAIK it's a no-go on the UK passport. And I never thought the RoI was a member of the EU

Peter
 

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The State department's website has some information on it. See http://travel.state.gov/vwp.html#2

If you are traveling to the U.S. and have a passport from Australia, Austria, 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 you do not need a visa IF your passport is machine readable. If you don't have a machine radable passport, you'll need a visa after October 26, 2004.(A side note: having a machine readable passport program in place is a requirement for a country to be nominated for visa waiver.)

If you're coming from Belgian, Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein, or Slovenia you already need a machine radable passport or a visa. And if you're Canadian, you don't need a visa to enter the U.S.

If you are the citizen of some other country, the visa waiver program does not apply and you need a visa yo enter the U.S.

Note also that each traveler, even infants, are required to have their own passport.

Best wishes,

Michael
 

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Peter K,

Ireland has been a member of the EU for many years. And most Irish and UK passports are machine readable.

To see if your passport works (from an Irish government site): "A machine-readable passport is a passport with two typeface lines printed at the bottom of the biographical page, which can be read by machine. When read, these lines electronically provide identical information to that provided on the biographical page. (The biographical page is the page on your passport that illustrates your photograph and carries information about your name, date of birth, address, nationality, etc.)."

Best wishes,

Michael
 

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<font color='#8D38C9'>I flew into Miami on Monday 5th Jan, the day US-Visit, or US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology came into play. (All visa holders had a picture taken & index fingers digitally scanned & saved)
What a fiasco! Miami is never a fast immigration transit, the new regulations meant we queued for 1½hrs behind people who didn't know which was their index finger!
The Visa Waiver scheme works well with a machine readable passport, so I'm safe until 2005.

On an aside, idiot girl in Miami- there are LARGE signs warning you not to mention or even think about "dangerous articles" before you get to security, she was as her father said, very silly!
 

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Hi all

That was well covered. The Brazillians are biteing back a bit i think as their standard passports are not machine readable at all, so lots of extra work and expense for them to up-grade and catch up.

This is all a bit knock for knock as USA citizens need a visa to come to the UK for 6 months or over now, along with a lot of other countries, and that will include even more in the future.

As an aside i am all in favour of the ID Card scheme, if it reduces Social Security scams and false Asylum Claims etc then i feel it has to be good.

Having just spent 6 weeks on a course with an experienced DHSS investigator hearing some of the fraud examples she has seen its got to be a good thing.

Just my 2 pennies worth,

Dive Safe

Paul
 

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Sadly, ID cards are very unlikely to reduce fraudulent claims for anything.  A black market for false ID cards is more likely to pour money into criminal gangs to then be used for more people smuggling and drug racketeering.  Furthermore how do you mandate them?  What about elderly people?  How do you get them to go to a passport office and get a card if they are housebound?  If you make an exception for them others will use this loophole to get cards fraudulently or to avoid having one.

Irrespective of the efficacy of the cards the logistics are awesome - the cost phenomenal.  Even if they work better than anyone ever dreamed they will take twenty years to recoup the cost.

They are, at best, a stupid idea that will not work, at worst, an affront to civil liberties.  My view?  They will not happen..

As to the biometrics - the bit I know about - it can only guarantee that the card works with one person - nothing more.  It does not guarantee the persons identity - this is a common misunderstanding.  Also these things will need to be regularly updated as criminals figure out how to "reprogram" them - look at the way that Internet frauds are quickly brought out to compromise bank and shopping sites.

Time will tell I guess.

Chris.
 

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Chris

Each to their own view, but i inspect identity documents every day and most fraudulent use is detected for a combination of reasons Pictures, Date of Birth, Ethnic origins, Fingerprints, Electronic Database Readings and of course body language. Most of these are very hard with no document or record to start from.

As for the Civil Liberty stuff - exactly how much info is required? Much more than hireing a car or takeing out a credit card? How much tracking will be done? much more than your Tesco Points Card?

I am also fully aware of Biometrics limitations, i also use every day their advantages.

Regards

Paul
 

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<font color='#0000FF'>ID cards are a good thing, most countries in Europe have them and they have just as a cause to worry about civil liberties. Newer cards have basic medical details (such as blood groups) for emergency use. Whenever I pay by credit card I'm often asked for valid photo ID for verification, this use for example helps to reduce credit card scams. I have the old style British Driving License and if  a copper stopped me he would have no way if I was the person the license, there isn't even a photo!
ID cards alone are not the soltuion for combating fraud, illegal immigration etch but I belive they go a long way to help.
 

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Well - there are two aspects of this thread.  First biometrics.  I have to say that they have their uses but ID cards or passports are no more or less secure as a result of this technology.  That was my point.

Second the issue of ID cards themselves.  There is a lot of emotion about this issue, mainly because of the potential for misuse of ID cards by the authorities.  It therefore as best I can see comes down to whether you trust the authorities or not rather than an argument about the cards themselves.

I carry lots of ID - credit cards driving licence etc.  I do not trust anyone that hides behind a uniform.  Some are OK but some are not - how do you tell??

Either way and whatever your view there is a financial argument and it is my view that even if ID cards work the cost outweighs the benefits.  The photo driving licence is a good idea - but the motorist pays.  Biometric passports, or even EU style passport ID cards are also something I think would be good, but again the user pays.  Both of these are voluntary.

ID cards will not help fight illegal immigration as far as I can see, but they will allow the Police to hassle ethnic minorities should they so wish.  Some will, some will not.

I think the illiberal Mr Blunkett is set on this nonsense so we will get them whatever.  I predict much chaos and little by way of results.

Chris
 

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Chris

You appear to have a very narrow minded view on this and you are very, very wrong in some aspects, however i cannot elaborate on this forum, suffice to say that some of your views above speak for themselves and that from my position they are rubbish.

But i doubt you will beleve me as i hid behind a uniform for 23 years and now carry a warrent instead - but no uniform


Regards

Paul
 
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