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Travelling to the USA? New biometric and e-passport rules

biometric passport USA rules

E-passport requirements when travelling to the USA – don’t get caught out

Picture the scene; after years of saving up, you’ve finally booked your dream holiday to the USA. You’ve been counting down the days on your calendar and thinking about all the fun things you’re going to do when you arrive.

You’ve made it to the airport in good time, when suddenly you’re refused travel at the check-in desk for not having the correct passport.

That’s exactly what happened to one holidaymaker who was unable to catch his flight to the USA despite his passport being in-date and 100% genuine. His dream holiday was ruined because he didn’t have a biometric or e-passport.

US immigration law has changed – all visitors must have a biometric passport

The USA has stepped up their security, in the wake of recent events. As of April 2016, all visitors are required to travel with a biometric passport, or chipped e-passport – these are the more modern passports, which enable you to pass through the electronic gates at border control.

What is a biometric passport?

A biometric passport uses clever technology to identify a person using facial, iris and fingerprint recognition.

These modern passports were introduced as an additional security measure, and to work in line with new smart contactless technology.

How do I know if I have a biometric passport?

Biometric passports were introduced to the UK in 2006, so if you’ve renewed or applied for a passport since then, you will most likely have the required type to enter the US.

Are you unsure whether you have the right passport or not? Don’t worry. It’s very easy to tell, your passport should have a key card symbol below the main crest. If you look inside the actual passport, you should also find a shiny and thicker page with a black chip.

Can I be refused entry to the USA if I don’t have a biometric passport?

Yes. If you’ve planned a holiday or city break to the USA, you’ll want to make sure you have the exact passport needed for travel.

While you may have filled out certain visa-waiver documents, such as an API form (advanced passenger information) or ESTA, these will no longer be enough to grant you access to the country.

How can you apply for a biometric/chipped passport?

Providing you are 16 or older your passport will be valid for ten years. If you’re planning a holiday soon, it might be worth renewing your passport. You can do this by going through the post Office or by applying online.

If you’re applying for your children under 16, their passport will be valid for five years at a time. If you renew now, you will receive the new biometric/chipped passport, which will grant you access to the USA.

How long does it take to get a biometric passport?

According to the government’s official website, your new passport should take three weeks to arrive. That being said, it’s worth leaving plenty of time for your replacement passport to arrive. You don’t want to risk missing out on the holiday of a lifetime.

Ordering an urgent passport

If you’re worried your new biometric passport won’t arrive in time before your USA holiday, you can take advantage of the government’s fast track passport application service.

The passport office offers two services; a week service and a one-day service, where you can either collect it from a registered passport office or have it sent to your home address.

Be aware though, you can only use this service if you’re in the UK.

Looking for holidays to the USA? Browse our selection of hotels, resorts and flight options for a fantastic deal on your next break.