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Most EU Countries Miss e-Passports Date

Only seven EU countries met a 28 August deadline to issue new high security biometric passports needed for travel into the US without a visa from this autumn.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands have informed the European Commission that they are ready to issue the new e-Passports with an integrated electronic chip storing information from the data page and a digital photograph.

Those EU states which do not issue biometric passports by 20 September could face legal action, an EU official told Reuters news agency.

A further five countries have said they would be ready this week, the official said, and a few others may be ready or close to readiness without having informed the commission about it.

Any passport issued on or after 26 October 2006, by a country participating in the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) must be an e-Passport if the passport holder wants to enter the US as a visitor without a visa.

The VWP is a US programme that allows citizens of specific countries to travel to the US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa and includes 27 countries across the world.

E-PASSPORT A WASTE OF MONEY. But doubts have been expressed about how secure these passports are. Earlier this month, a German computer expert demonstrated how personal information stored on the biometric passports could be copied and transferred to another device.

Addressing an annual conference on security weaknesses in Las Vegas, Lukas Grunwald said e-Passports were a waste of money and did not help increase security.

In June, the commission unveiled the technical details of a new type of biometric data to be used in EU citizens' passports.

Along with facial features that must be part of newly issued travel documents, member states will be obliged to issue passports with two fingerprints by 2009.

NEW MEMBER STATES NOT INCLUDED. The US still requires visas from Greece and the new member states ? except Slovenia.

The commission is set to issue a report in September on talks between the US and the 10 EU countries.

The EU executive has warned it has the power to recommend sanctions, such as requiring US diplomats to seek visas, if there is not sufficient progress in the talks on waiving visas for these member states.

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