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Biometric Passport Deadline Extension Passes Congress

July 26, 2004

Biometric Passport Deadline Extension Passes Congress
July 26, 2004 – The travel industry scored a major legislative victory in a highly anticipated Senate vote late last week. Acting just weeks after the House of Representatives passed similar legislation, the Senate voted to extend a looming deadline for inbound visitors.

The Senate passed a bill that would give Visa Waiver Program countries one additional year to start producing new passports containing biometric technology. Under the existing law, the 27 nations in the Visa Waiver Program were to begin issuing the biometric passports by Oct. 26, 2004.

Congress got involved after concerns arose that very few of those countries would be able to meet the deadline. With so many countries likely to miss it, the requirement posed a risk to the U.S. travel industry and would have significantly reduced inbound travel to the United States from many Visa Waiver Program countries.

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) has been leading a travel industry-wide effort to extend the deadline. According to TIA, the Visa Waiver Program accounts for two-thirds of all overseas leisure, business, student and medical travel to the United States – a total of nearly 14 million visitors.

The legislation now awaits the signature of President George W. Bush.

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