UNCLAS STATE 160834
FOR CONSULAR SECTION CHIEFS AND NIV CHIEFS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS, CMGT
SUBJECT: MACHINE-READABLE PASSPORT REQUIRED FOR ALL VISA
WAIVER TRAVELERS BEGINNING OCTOBER 1, 2003
Ref: A) State 98800 B) 02 State 166090
1. This is an action message for all posts. See para 5
2. Summary. Beginning October 1, 2003, each Visa Waiver
Program (VWP) traveler must present a machine-readable
passport (MRP) in order to enter the U.S. visa-free.
Because many expatriates from VWP countries travel on
passports that were issued abroad and are not machine-
readable, posts may see an increase in the number of NIV
applications from VWP nationals. All posts, including
those in non-VWP countries, are asked to develop an
outreach strategy to the travel industry, the media, and
the VWP traveling public. End summary.
3. Section 417 of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 advanced
from October 1, 2007, to October 1, 2003, the requirement
of Section 217 the INA that all VWP travelers present a
valid MRP for visa-free entry into the U.S. (Note: per
reftel A, the date for Belgium is May 15, 2003. End
note.) Most VWP countries began issuing MRPs in the early
or mid-1990s, so most VWP travelers will have no trouble
complying with this requirement. Some countries, notably
Switzerland (which only began MRP production this year),
Italy, and Spain, may find that significant portions of
their traveling public will need either a replacement
passport or an NIV.
4. CA anticipates that citizens of VWP countries who have
the option of replacing their non-machine-readable
passports with MRPs will likely do so instead of applying
for an NIV, particularly in instances where the passport
cost is significantly less than the $100 MRV fee.
However, there are numerous situations where this may not
be possible, and VWP nationals will need NIVs. Many
expatriate VWP citizens may have passports issued abroad
that are more likely to be non-machine-readable, and these
expats often do not have the option of obtaining MRPs.
Posts may therefore experience an increase in NIV
applications from VWP citizens in the next few months.
Many diplomatic and official passports currently valid for
VWP travel are not machine-readable and the bearers will
need a visa after October 1. Should VWP countries develop
backlogs in the passport applications, some nationals may
simply prefer applying for an NIV. Whenever appropriate,
VWP nationals should be encouraged to apply for an MRP,
but posts may not refuse to accept applications from VWP
nationals who prefer obtaining an NIV.
5. Consular chiefs in VWP countries should ensure that
appropriate host government officials are informed (text
for VWP posts is being provided septel), and the travel
industry (particularly the airlines) and media are
appropriately informed. Posts in non-VWP countries,
especially those where significant numbers of VWP country
nationals reside, should contact embassies and consulates
of VWP countries, as well as media and travel industry as
appropriate. Posts'' outreach programs may draw on the
following talking points:
-- Beginning October 1, 2003, all citizens of countries
participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) who wish to
enter the U.S. visa-free must present a machine-readable
-- VWP nationals who do not have MRPs must obtain a U.S.
-- This change affects only visa waiver travel.
Applicants for visas at U.S. consular sections are not
required to obtain MRPs, regardless of the category of
visa being sought.
-- Non-machine-readable passports will remain valid for
Transit Without Visa (TWOV) purposes. TWOV and VWP are
separate, distinct statuses. TWOV travelers are not
admitted into the U.S. for B-visa purposes, as under the
VWP, and therefore will not require an MRP.
-- This change includes all categories of passports--
tourist, diplomatic, and official. Bearers of diplomatic
and official passports that are not machine-readable will
need visas beginning October 1, 2003.
-- Families and groups should obtain an individual
passport for each traveler, including infants. MRPs
typically have biodata for only one traveler in the
machine-readable zone (MRZ), and families may be denied
visa-free entry into the U.S. if the biodata for only one
traveler is machine-readable.
-- 27 countries participate in VWP: Andorra, Australia,
Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein,
Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway,
Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
6. The Patriot Act also provides the State Department
with the authority to grant a waiver of this requirement
to nationals of VWP countries that are making progress
toward ensuring that its passports are machine-readable
and have taken appropriate measures to protect against
misuse of its passports. We do not/not plan on exercising
this authority. VWP posts will be provided septel with
language for diplomatic notes to host countries reminding
them of October 1 deadline and advising them of our intent
not to use the waiver option.
7. 9 FAM 41.2 N11.2-2, Machine-Readable Passport (MRP)
Necessary for VWP, is being amended to read as follows:
Those countries that were designated a program country
prior to May 1, 2000, must certify that they have a
program in place where they will begin issuing machine-
readable passports (MRP) no later than October 1, 2003, in
order to continue in the VWP. Effective October 1, 2003,
any alien wishing to enter the U.S. under the VWP,
including bearers of diplomatic or official passports,
must be in possession of a machine-readable passport.
Aliens who do not possess a machine-readable passport must
have a B visa in his or her passport. Travelers carrying
Belgian passports must have an MRP or appropriate B visa
on and after May 15, 2003.