US assures most Europeans will not need to apply for visitor visas

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The United States Embassy in London issued a pressrelease on April 7 reassuring British citizens that most would not needvisitor visas, as had been widely reported in the press this week.

TheEmbassy said in its press release that British passports issued beforeOctober 26, 2005 – as long as they are machine-readable – wouldcontinue to allow the bearer to travel visa free to the United States.Passports issued on or after October 26, 2005, must contain biometricidentifiers in order to qualify the bearer for visa-free travel.

Inorder to improve U.S. border security for the benefit of both theAmerican public and foreign visitors, the U.S. Congress orderedimproved passport standards as part of the Enhanced Border Security andVisa Entry Reform Act of 2002. In response to the widespread concern inBritain and elsewhere that the October 26, 2004 deadline in the Actwould be very difficult to meet, the Administration successfullylobbied Congress to extend the deadline by one year. Currently, itappears that some VWP nations will begin issuing passports withbiometric identifiers by that new deadline, while others will not beable to meet it. The Administration is discussing the current state ofVWP nations' biometric programs with the U.S. Congress and we have madeclear our concern about the current deadline.