June 16, 2003
US Visa Waiver programme adds requirements

October 1st 2003 all travellers on the US Visa Waiver programme (that's citizens of most European countries, Japan, Australia, etc when travelling to USA) will have to provide 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, 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.
It is actually quite an interesting effort being undertaken, not only in the "War Against Terror"(TM) ... standardizing all sorts of travel documents, an interesting background of which can be found here: ICAO Doc 9303: Machine Readable Travel Documents:
In the immediate post-War [World War 1] period, the League of Nations convened conferences to facilitate the movement of international passenger traffic in order to restore and, if possible, improve upon the favourable travel practices that were in effect prior to the War. The first Conference, convened for this purpose in 1920 adopted standard passport and visa formats for all signatory States, with uniform provisions governing their layout, content, validity and issuing fees.
I find it intriguing, but as always there are downsides (here actually presented as a benefit!)
There are major benefits in standardizing travel document formats and including machine readable data in consistent forms. MRTDs benefit governments, transportation companies, etc., as described below. It is presumed that the potential user is equipped with machine readers configured to read the standard entries.

3.2 These readers can be used, for example, to check a travel document against a watch list, to verify the authenticity of the document, and/or to transmit the document information to other data bases, all in one easy step.

Well.. either way, when travelling today, especially when flying, one is leaving hundreds of electronic traces anyway (frequent flyer miles, credit card payment, eTickets, electronic notification to the destination country of your arrival etc)... Still... Big Brother 10 - Regular Man 0...

The biggest downside of this new requirement for US entry for me personally is of course that while most EU countries have routinely been producing the new types of passports for the last couple of years, Norway is just starting to experiment with this, and as an expat there are currently no means by which I can obtain one of the new passports at this time. ... leaving me with the option of having to make multiple trips to Norway (one to order the new passport and one to retireve it two weeks later, as otherwise I'd have to surrender my current passport, meaning I couldn't work for 2 weeks (hmmmmm.. interesting idea ;-) )... I'm having our office support personnell addressing it with the Norwegian consulate. We'll see what they come back with ...

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Anders Jacobsen's blog: Electronic Information Exchange about travellers to US (June 23, 2003 08:35 PM)
"In a recent rant about machine-readable passports, I mentioned the Big Brother aspect of facilitating data capture, storage and transfer of passenger data like this. It turns out all airlines flying to the US already have to do this via a UN/EDIFACT da..."
Anders Jacobsen's blog: Machine-readable passports 2.0: Bio-RFID (July 21, 2003 04:35 PM)
"International technical standards and civil aviation organisations have confirmed that they are working on deploying passports containing details that enable the 'machine-assisted identification' of the passenger, which will be required by travellers v..."

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