August 16 2004.

The US Senate has endorsed a one-year extension to the requirement for travellers under the Visa Waiver Programme to hold biometric passports.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and UK Passport Service, this decision will now enable British travellers with valid machine-readable passports issued before the new deadline to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme up to, and beyond, October 2005.

Last year, the US extended until 26 October 2004 its requirement for all British visitors, including children, travelling to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme to hold a valid machine-readable passport. This deadline will not be changed by the latest decision in Congress.

The current law also requires that any passport issued after 26 October 2004 contain biometric data. This is the deadline which will be extended.

A British passport is machine-readable when there are two lines of letters, numbers and chevrons printed at the bottom of the page with photograph and personal details. If there are no lines of text, the passport is not machine-readable.