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Most "Visa Waiver" Nations unable to meet US deadline (8 Jan 2004)

The United States is giving an October 26 deadline for all "visa waiver" states to include biometric features such as digital photographs or fingerprints in all new passports. Examples of these countries include Singapore, Australia, Japan and several European countries.

The US Department of Homeland Security introduced the programme on Monday to fingerprint and photograph visitors who do require a visa. However, most of the countries had informed the department that they would miss the deadline. In this case, citizens of the country would be required to apply for US visas ahead of their travel. This will cause logistic challenges and may also hinder future visitors.

Tourism sources have said that the programme could cost the US economy billions of dollars in missed travel spending. Last year, about 15.1 million travelers entered the US under the visa waiver programme.

Although the new regulations are unwelcome by many of the "visa waiver" states, they are necessary due to security reasons as the United States had terrorists coming in from "visa waiver" countries. Examples include British 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid and French 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

According to studies, the United States is expected to lose at least US$10 billion to US$15 billion in visitor revenue each year.