New US Immigration Laws on Biometric Passports

By Mark Valentine

New US Immigration Laws on Biometric Passports

As of April 1st 2016, only tourists who carry a biometric passport are allowed to travel to the USA.

For years, British citizens have not needed to apply for a visa to travel to the USA, and have only needed to successfully obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation and an API (Advanced Passenger Information). 

Now you will need an ESTA as well as a biometric passport. 

What is a biometric passport?

A biometric passport contains an electronic chip, which holds the same information that’s on the passport’s data page: name, date of birth and other information related to your identity. 

Due to the UK being a Visa Waiver Country (VWC), any citizen of this country that has had a new passport since October 2006 will have a biometric passport. Due to the microchip inside them, it is difficult for criminals to forge and tamper with biometric passports. 

How do I know if my passport is biometric? 

Each biometric passport features a microchip symbol on the front cover. This is located beneath the country of origin. 

Can I be refused entry if I don’t have one? 

Yes. If you don’t have a biometric passport you will not be able to travel to the USA. 

How can you get a biometric passport? 

If your passport was issued after October 2006, it will be biometric. 

You can renew your passport by completing the online form on the official government website. Alternatively you can go to your local post office and pick up a form from there. 

Your passport is valid for 10 years if you’re over 16 years of age. If you’re applying for a child under 16 years of age, their passport will only be valid for five years. 

How long does it take to get a biometric passport?

The official government website states that it can take up to three weeks for a new passport to arrive. 

However, it’s possible to get your new passport sooner if it’s urgent. If you’re a UK citizen, you can use the government’s fast track service. You can get your new passport delivered to the passport office or have it sent to your home address on a one-week or one-day service. 

The government website stresses that it is advisable to not book any holidays to the USA or anywhere else without first receiving your passport.