From Aviation Week and Space Technology 2005 May

The nonprofit Travel Industry Assn. of America has doubts that the U.S. and a majority of 27 visa-waiver passport (VWP) countries considering biometric identity systems can meet an Oct. 26 deadline for the necessary scanning technology to be in place. If they don't, the U.S. stands to lose a lot of tourism dollars, says the TIA.

"By the latest estimates, about half of the 27 VWP countries can meet the deadline and be producing and distributing biometric passports," explained Rick Webster, TIA's director of government affairs, during the group's recent annual meeting in New York. But "the two largest overseas travel markets to the U.S.--the U.K. and Japan--cannot make the October deadline."

The U.S. government is not required by statute to issue biometric passports, but is doing so as an act of good faith, Webster explained. But it isn't prepared to act until the spring of 2006.

TIA has asked the Bush administration to compromise on the definition of "biometric" so the majority of VWP countries can install machine-readable technology in time to meet the deadline. TIA members want the administration to push Congress to ensure that the deadline doesn't slip by because a flow of some 15 million visa-waiver visitors from the U.K. and Japan is at stake.

"Even though the government does not want to allow the deadline to keep sliding, the fact is that people plan ahead for their travel," TIA President and CEO Roger Dow cautioned.

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