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U.S. Department
of State

Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 12, 2005

Machine-Readable Passport Requirements To Take Effect at U.S. Borders on June 26, 2005

The Department of Homeland Security today announced that as of June 26, 2005, all persons traveling under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must present a machine-readable passport (MRP) to travel to the United States without a visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act originally set October 1, 2003 as the date by which Visa Waiver Program travelers were required to present a machine-readable passport for visa-free travel to the United States. Twenty-three of the 27 Visa Waiver Program countries requested and were granted a postponement to October 26, 2004 of this requirement. The countries not requesting this postponement were Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia. Nationals of those four countries have been required to present a machine-readable passport for visa-free travel since October 1, 2003. Belgian nationals traveling under the auspices of the Visa Waiver Program have been required to present a machine-readable passport since May 15, 2003.

For a limited period that started on October 26, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security has provided immigration inspectors at U.S. borders and ports of entry the authority to grant a one-time entry at no charge for Visa Waiver travelers arriving without a machine-readable passport. This limited period will end on June 26, 2005. Starting on that date, transportation carriers will be fined $3,300 per violation for transporting any Visa Waiver traveler to the U.S. without a machine-readable passport.

The Department of State has been working closely with Visa Waiver Program countries to communicate information about the machine-readable passport requirement to their citizens. Since October 26, 2004, Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection officers have been notifying Visa Waiver travelers entering the United States with a letter explaining the machine-readable passport requirements.

Machine-readable passports include two optical-character, typeface lines at the bottom of the biographic page of the passport that, when read, deters fraud and helps confirm the passport holder’s identity quickly. A sample image of a machine-readable passport may be found at

Visa Waiver travelers who are not in possession of machine-readable passport may also apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad if seeking entry for business or tourist visits to the United States. Information on the Visa Waiver Program and how to apply for a U.S. visa is available at and

The machine-readable passport requirements do not affect the separate deadline requiring Visa Waiver Program country passports issued on or after October 26, 2005, to contain biometrics in order to be used for visa-free travel to the United States.


Released on May 12, 2005