By CT Hj Mahmod
Bandar Seri Begawan - The US Department of Homeland Security on Monday published a timeline detailing passport requirements for visa-free travel to the United States affecting Brunei and another 26 countries in the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).
Deadlines for introducing the biometric passport embedded with computer chip by Visa Waiver countries that was initially set for October 2004 have been delayed to November 2006 due to significant technical challenges.
US authorities said the following key deadlines and requirements to ensure continued visa-free travel under the so called VWP are final, Reuters reported.
As of June 26, all visitors in the VWP travelling to US have been required to use machine-readable passport (MRP) in order to enter the country without a visa.
Brunei has already issued MRPs for its citizens.
Such passports contain two lines of text as letters, numbers and chevrons at the bottom of the personal information page along with a photograph.
All new passports issued by VWP countries as of October 26 must include a digital photo or the traveller will be required to obtain a visa.
Those who have valid MRPs issued before the said date do not need to obtain new passports or visas until their existing passports expire.
Effective October 26, 2006, all new passports issued by VWP countries must have an embedded computer chip capable of storing biographic information from the data page, a digital photograph and other biometric information.
Travellers who have valid MRPs on this date do not need new passports until the expiry date of their existing passport if it was issued before October 26, this year, or if they are issued between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006.
The MRP must include a digital photograph. The 27 VWP countries, including Brunei Darussalam are, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, German, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Citizens of the VWP countries are allowed to travel to US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin