Tuesday, June 14, 2005

U.S. Backs Down on Biometric Passport

The United States is expected to scale back its biometric passport requirements to make it easier for foreign travelers from allied nations to enter the country without a visa, The Associated Press has learned.

Initially, the US considered requiring fingerprinting or iris identification features in biometric passports, making the documents virtually impossible to counterfeit. A 2002 law required visitors from 27 allied nations that are not required to apply for a U.S. visa to carry the high-tech passports.

But the visa-waiver nations, mostly in Europe, failed to meet the October 2004 deadline, prompting U.S. officials to revamp their requirements. The new rules would allow the visa-waiver nations to comply with less stringent biometric guidelines set in 2003 by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the United Nations. Those guidelines require digital photos and machine-readable chips to store identifying information in passports.

Also Monday, Canada's ambassador predicted that the United States would drop a controversial proposal that would require travelers to show passports in order to cross the 4,000-mile border between the neighboring nations.


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