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back to index backAMERItalk August,  2005


Questions and answers on Machine Readable Passport requirements for all Visa Waiver Countries

Questions and Answers


Q: What is the Visa Waiver Program?

A: If you are a national from a Visa Waiver Program-designated country, you are allowed to apply for admission to the United States for ninety (90) days or less as a nonimmigrant visitor for business or pleasure without first obtaining a U.S. nonimmigrant visa.

Q: What are the Visa Waiver Program countries?

A: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Q: How do I know if I have a machine-readable passport?

A: Machine-readable passports have a sequence of lines that can be swiped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to quickly confirm the passport holder's identity and obtain other information about the holder typically found on a passport's inside cover. You may obtain information as to whether your passport is machine-readable at your country's nearest Consulate or Embassy or passport-issuing office.

Q: What happens if I am applying for admission under the Visa Waiver Program, but I don't have a machine-readable passport by June 26, 2004?

A: Since October 26, 2004, CBP has granted, on a case-by-case basis, a one-time parole for Visa Waiver Program applicants who apply for admission and are not in possession of an MRP. This policy will continue until June 26, 2005. On that date, if VWP travelers are not in possession of a machine-readable passport, they should not anticipate to be permitted to board an aircraft or cruise ship and if VWP travelers arrive at a U.S. port of entry, they may be denied admission to the United States.

Q: Is it going to cost me anything for the parole?

A: At the present time, there is no fee for parole granted in these circumstances. After June 26, 2005, if you are not in possession of a machine-readable passport, you will likely not be permitted to board an aircraft or cruise ship and if you do arrive at a U.S. port of entry, you may be denied admission to the United States. Individuals without machine-readable passports who are granted parole after that date will be charged the usual parole fee of $65.

Q: Is there any alternative to me getting a machine-readable passport?

A: As an alternative, you may obtain a nonimmigrant visa in your current passport from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Q: If I am applying for admission under the Visa Waiver Program and I am granted a parole for not having a machine-readable passport, what will happen if I return to the United States on a subsequent visit without a machine-readable passport or a nonimmigrant visa?

A: If you apply for admission in the future without the required machine-readable passport or without a nonimmigrant visa, you will be denied entry to the United States and may be detained until removed.

Q: If I am applying for admission under the Visa Waiver Program and I am granted a parole, can I make a side-trip to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands?

A: If you travel to Canada or Mexico or the adjacent islands as part of this trip to the United States, you may be found inadmissible upon your reentry, despite the period of parole on your I-94, as parole authorization terminates upon your departure from the United States.

Q: Does this policy apply to the Guam Visa Waiver Program?

A: No.

Q: Prior to June 26, 2005, will the parole procedures be available to all Visa Waiver Program travelers?

A: No, the parole procedures will be available to nationals of twenty-two (22) designated Visa Waiver Program countries.

The designated countries are: Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

As of October 1, 2003, nationals of the following four countries were required to present an MRP for admission under the VWP: Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia. CBP will continue to recognize that effective date and the current parole procedures will not affect that policy.

As of May 16, 2003, nationals of Belgium were required to present an MRP for admission under the VWP. CBP will continue to recognize that effective date and the current parole procedures will not affect that policy.

Q: I am applying under the Visa Waiver Program and my child is listed on my machine-readable passport. Will my child be affected by this new policy?

A: Yes, each VWP applicant must now present an individual passport. Families must have individual machine-readable passports for everyone, including children.

Q: I understand that the biometric requirement for Visa Waiver Program country passports was extended to October 26, 2005, did that also extend the requirement for all Visa Waiver Program applicants to present an MRP upon admission into the United States?

A: No. Although Congress has extended until October 26, 2005, the biometric requirement for Visa Waiver Program country passports, it did not extend the requirement that all Visa Waiver Program applicants present an MRP upon admission into the United States. Travelers presenting themselves for admission under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have a machine-readable passport. Note: The biometric requirement for VWP country passports will only apply to passports issued on or after October 26, 2005.

Q: I intend to travel for vacation to the United States arriving at the Miami International Airport. I then intend to board a cruise vessel for a Caribbean trip. After reviewing my itinerary I have discovered that the cruise vessel will be departing for foreign destinations and making multiple entries at U.S. ports. Will my parole status be affected by this multiple entries at different U.S. ports?

A: At this time, travelers who apply for admission at an airport with a non machine-readable passport for the purpose of departing on a cruise that makes multiple stops at various U.S. ports may be considered again for parole at several locations to complete their trip if they can establish continuous travel from the arrival to cruise and return.

Source: US Customs and Border Protection - GAI


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