US says deadline for "biometric" passports cannot be extended

The Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee has written to the European Commission to say that the 26 October 2005 deadline for EU member states to issue "biometrics" passports is "unlikely" to be changed. Only six EU member states are said to be able to meet the deadline so visitors to the USA from other member states would have to get a visa (they currently do not have to get a visa under the Visa Waiver Scheme).

It should be noted that the so-called "biometric" passports are not biometric one - they simply have to include a digitised copy of the normal passport photo (which is the standard agreed by the ICAO, International Civil Aviation Organisation). Moreover, the obligation is only to have this so-called "biometric" on new passports issued after 26 October for those who want to go to the USA - all the rest only have to have "machine-readable" passports which all existing EU passports have - "machine-readable" is the two lines of type summarising the information on the passport page. So the rejection of the EU request for an extension in the deadline will only effect new passports issued after the deadline.

If the US does not change its mind it will be interesting to see if the Commission proposes reciprocal moves against the USA.


USA: The House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) today in a letter informed the European Union that another extension of the October 26, 2005 deadline for issuing new passports with biometric information is “unlikely.” Chairman Sensenbrenner goes on to say, “I strongly suggest that the European Commission plan without the expectation that there will be an extension of the deadline, and encourage Member states to do their best to meet the requirements.”

Full-text of letter:

March 31, 2005

His Excellency Franco Frattini,
Vice President of the European Commission
His Excellency Luc Frieden
President of the European Council of Ministers
Rue de la Loi 200 B1049
Brussels, Belgium

Dear Mr. Frattini and Mr. Frieden:

I thank you for your letter, dated March 23, 2005, providing an update on the European Commission's efforts to strengthen the security of the passports issued by countries belonging to the European Union.

It is noteworthy and commendable that the European Commission is examining improved methods for securing biometric information such as fingerprints on passports.

With regard to your urging that Congress consider a second extension of the October 26, 2005 deadline, I must advise you that such an outcome is unlikely. The increased awareness and concern, of both the American public and most Members of Congress, regarding continued weakness in U.S. Border Security, will make an additional extension difficult to accomplish. Consequently, I strongly suggest that the European Commission plan without the expectation that there will be an extension of the deadline, and encourage Member states to do their best to meet the requirements.

I have been pleased to learn recently, that a number of your key Member States have accelerated their time tables, so that they begin initial passport production by the deadline, including Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and potentially Germany and
Italy.

Sincerely,

F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.
Chairman


Statewatch News online | Join Statewatch news e-mail list | Search Statewatch database

Statewatch does not have a corporate view, nor does it seek to create one, the views expressed are those of the author. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement.