The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Currently, the 27 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, are: Andorra (MRP), Australia, Austria, Belgium (MRP), Brunei (MRP), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein (MRP), Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia (MRP), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Countries above with the (MRP) designation are already required to have machine-readable passports (MRP) for travelers to enter the U.S on the visa waiver program. For all other VWP countries, travelers must have a MRP as of October 26, 2004.
What Is a Machine Readable Passport?
A machine-readable passport has biographical data entered on the data page according to international specifications. The size of the passport and photograph, and arrangement of data fields, especially the two lines of printed OCR-B machine readable data, must meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9303, Part 1, Machine Readable Passports. (OCR-B means the type is Optical Character Reader size B.) Starting October 26, 2004, those without machine-readable passports cannot travel to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program, and will need a visa to travel to the United States. Those from VWP counties should contact the passport issuing agency or authority in their country of citizenship if you have questions about whether your passport is machine-readable.
What Should I Know About Machine-Readable Passports and Families?
Families seeking to enter the United States under the VWP will need to obtain an individual passport for each traveler, including infants. Machine-readable passports typically have biodata for only one traveler in the machine-readable zone. Based on this, families may be denied visa-free entry into the United States if the biodata for only one traveler is machine-readable.
Do Canadian Citizens Need a Visa or MRP?
Citizens of Canada generally do not require a visa. (While some people mistakenly think Canada is part of the visa waiver program, the authorization for Canadian citizens to travel visa-free comes from other immigration laws.) The machine-readable passport requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens, because they are not part of the visa waiver program. However, certain Canadian citizens traveling to the United States require nonimmigrant visas and therefore must have MRPs, including A, G, NATO, E, K, and V nonimmigrants.
© McCown & Evans LLP 2004