Most of EU will miss e-passport deadline

VISA CARD: Belgium's new passport features biometric security.

Herwig Vergult

Only six European Union countries that now enjoy visa-free travel to the United States are expected to meet an Oct. 26 deadline for initiating biometric passports to maintain that status'with Great Britain and France among the nations expected to lag behind.

Only Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden will be ready to start issuing biometric passports by the deadline, the Financial Times reported late last month. Japan, which also has a visa waiver agreement with the United States, won't be ready with the passports for another year.

The British intend to start implementing biometric passports in 2006, said Tony Bunyan, editor of Statewatch, a civil liberties publication in London. 'And that means 'start''it will take at least 10 years for everyone to have a biometric passport. Next year's start in the U.K. may be further delayed if the ID Card Bill, of which it is part, falls because of lack of parliamentary time due to impending general election.'

The United States proposed the biometric passports, which contain computer chips with digitized biological information such as facial images and fingerprints, as a security measure after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Congress, which originally sought an October 2004 implementation date, has already agreed to a one-year extension, and a State Department official told lawmakers last month a request for another extension is likely.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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