The U. S. Department of State has delayed implementation of a regulation requiring visitors to the United States under the country’s visa waiver program to have “machine readable passports” — passports that can be scanned for biographical information by computers.

Originally slated for Oct. 1, the new passport law is now to go into effect Oct. 26, 2004.

“It was a wise decision since most of the participating countries were unable to meet the deadline,” said Robert Banta, founder of Atlanta-based Banta Immigration Law Ltd. “If the deadline had not been extended, business and tourism would have suffered significantly as the U.S. consulates overseas are already swamped. This could have been negative for an already fragile economy.”

Countries granted postponement are Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

            According to the State Department, five other eligible countries did not request a postponement because most of their citizens already have machine-readable passports. Those countries are Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Slovenia.

The visa waiver program entitles citizens of designated countries to apply to the U.S. for 90 days or less as a non-immigrant visitor for business or pleasure without obtaining a B-1 or B-2 non-immigrant visa from a U.S. consular officer.

For more information contact Mr. Banta at (404) 249-1200.