Beginning September 30, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will process visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) through the US-VISIT system, at all air and sea points of entry.

Currently, only nonimmigrants entering the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa are processed through US-VISIT. Since VWP visitors enter the U.S. without a visa, they have been exempt from US-VISIT processing [see 69 Fed. Reg. 468 (January 5, 2004). AMDOC# 200401001].

US-VISIT collects biometric data, including a digital photograph and two digital fingerprints. VWP visitors had been exempt from US-VISIT because they were subject to a separate requirement that, by October 26, 2004, their countries issue them machine readable passports that include biometric identifiers. Because it does not appear that the VWP countries will be able to meet this deadline to upgrade the passports they issue their citizens, nor does it appear that DHS will be able to implement biometric passport readers at all ports of entry by that date, DHS and DOS have jointly requested that Congress extend the VWP biometric passport requirement for two years, until October 26, 2006.

Since the core issue is the collection of biometric information, expanding US-VISIT entry processing to VWP visitors will allow DHS to collect that information while the VWP countries and DHS work over the next two years to conform their systems to incorporate biometric passports. AMDOC#: 200404003