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Deadline For Biometric Passports May be Pushed Back

March 24, 2004

Deadline For Biometric Passports May be Pushed Back
March 24, 2004 – The Bush administration will ask Congress this week to push back the October 26 deadline that would require countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program to issue passports with biometric identifiers.

The state department wishes to postpone the deadline for two years in order to give the 27 countries more time to issue the advanced technology passports. The administration hopes that such passports will help prevent terrorists from entering the country. The October deadline was established as part of the Patriot Act, passed in October 2001.

The U.S. government will also benefit by extending the deadline. In January, Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson told reporters that if countries came up with different biometric technologies, the United States would be hard pressed to install passport readers matching all those technologies at U.S. ports of entry.

In a letter to Sensenbrenner, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said there are "good reasons" to extend the deadline until December 2006.

Among their concerns, they referenced privacy concerns, interoperability issues, questions about the durability of electronic chips and production delays as reasons the governments overseas would not meet the deadline.

The 27 countries to issue visa-waivers account for 68 percent of the people coming into the United States, excluding visitors from Mexico and Canada. The visa-waiver countries include England, France, Germany and Japan.

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