DHS: All but 3 countries meet visa waiver deadline

Visa Waiver Program countries' newly issued passports must contain a contactless chip with the passport holder’s biographical information and a biometric identifier.

Editor's note:This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

The Homeland Security Department says that 24 of the 27 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program have met the Oct. 26 deadline for all newly issued passports to contain a contactless chip with the passport holder’s biographical information and a biometric identifier, such as a digital photograph of the holder.

The countries that are not in compliance are Andorra, Brunei and Liechtenstein.

In July 2005, DHS announced that passports issued by waiver program countries on or after Oct. 26 must be e-Passports to be valid for entry into the United States without a visa. Moreover, they must comply with the technical standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

DHS said in a statement that the e-Passport securely identifies the bearer, defends against identity theft, protects privacy and makes it difficult for people to cross borders using fraudulent documents. During the past two years, the agency said, the U.S. government has collaborated with waiver program countries to develop the technical standards and capability to ensure that e-Passports are operable with the readers at U.S. ports of entry.

Other valid passports that can be used for entry into the United States include machine-readable passports with a digital photograph issued before Oct. 26, 2006, and machine-readable passports issued before Oct. 26, 2005.

“The department is committed to shutting down the ability of terrorists and criminals to use false travel documents to move freely through our borders,” DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said in the statement. “The upgrade to e-Passports is a significant advance in preventing terrorists from using lost or stolen passports to obtain entry into the United States.”

DHS will continue to work closely with the remaining countries toward their speedy and complete compliance, he said.

The 27 waiver program countries 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.

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