A U.S. passport law that took effect on April 1 is causing frustration for some international travelers. The law requires nationals 38 Visa Waiver Program countries to use an electronic passport to enter America. Those traveling under a valid but old-style passport may not realize they can’t enter the U.S. until they reach the airport, ready to depart. That’s because other required travel clearances still may be granted to a traveler using an old-style passport.
The good news is many travelers already have e-passports because integrated computer chips have been phased in since 2006. How can you tell if you’re in the e-ready group? Check for the e-passport symbol on the front cover of your passport booklet (see image). In addition, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to check your visa status before traveling to the United States.
The e-passport requirement was part of a broader security law that the U.S. began implementing earlier this year. The law also restricts visa waivers to:
- Visa Waiver Program country nationals who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes).
- Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
The U.S. State Department has posted detailed information about the restrictions on its website.