Beginning October 26, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security will require that all new passports issued by Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries be "e-passports." The VWP allows foreign nationals from participating countries to enter the United States as temporary visitors without a visa if they are traveling for tourism or business for 90 days or less. The 27 countries currently participating in the VWP 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.

Since June 26, 2005, VWP travelers have been required to possess machine-readable passports in order to enter the United States under the program. Beginning October 26, 2006, new passports issued by a VWP country must be e-passports and have an integrated computer chip capable of storing the same biographic information printed on the passport's data page: the holder's name, date of birth and biographic information. The chip will also store a digitized photograph of the passport holder.

Most individuals from a VWP country traveling after October 26, 2006, without an e-passport will be required to obtain a visa before entering the United However, travelers from a VWP country who have either (1) a valid machine-readable passport with a digital photograph that was issued, renewed, or extended before October 26, 2006; or (2) a valid machine-readable passport without a digital photograph that was issued, renewed, or extended before October 25, 2005, may continue to use that passport until it expires and still travel to the United States under the program.

A machine-readable passport without a digital photograph that was issued after October 25, 2005, is not valid for VWP travel. An individual with such a passport will have to obtain a visa or a new e-passport before traveling to the United States.

As of August 24, 2006, the following 15 VWP countries were issuing e-passports: Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

An updated Visa Waiver Program Traveler Guide can be found at http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/VWP_PassportRequirementTimeline_07-2005.pdf#search="visa waiver program traveler guide". The guide contains illustrations of each type of passport and offers additional information on the latest requirements.

If you frequently have employees who travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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