Acknowledging international concerns, the United States will revamp its biometric passport requirements to make it easier for foreign travelers from friendly nations to enter the country without a visa, The Associated Press has learned.
The new passport standards — requiring digital photographs to match with a person's unique physical characteristics by October and an embedded identification chip later — would be similar to international biometric guidelines already in place.
The standards take a step back from what the U.S. initially envisioned for biometric passports, but a Homeland Security Department official said Tuesday they represent an "acceptable milestone for now."
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the standards have not yet been announced, said Homeland Security still plans to require expanded biometric data in passports in the future.
But without the revision, visitors from so-called visa-waiver nations that could not meet the stricter standards potentially faced being barred from entering the United
States this fall. The Homeland Security official said the department was expected to unveil the new standards soon.
Initially, the United States considered requiring fingerprinting or iris identification features in biometric passports, making the documents virtually impossible to counterfeit. A 2002 law required visitors from 27 allied nations that are not required to apply for a U.S. visa to carry the high-tech passports.
But the visa-waiver nations, mostly in Europe, failed to meet the October 2004 deadline, prompting U.S. officials to revamp their requirements.
The article is not all that clear but the upshot seems to be that it looks like the US will not be requiring these kinds of biometric passports from visa-waiver nations and probably not from any of the others either because no one has been able to meet those standards yet. There were threats of retaliation by other countries who said they would start requiring visas from Americans if the standards weren't relaxed. There was no reason to rile people up and make it a whole lot less easier for Americans to travel if it could be helped. Better to save the bitter confrontations for geopolitical matters--bigger things.