A new U.S. passport regulation has unexpectedly stopped thousands of tourists from traveling to America and could be responsible for ruining the summer plans of millions.
Electronic biometric passports, identifiable by a camera logo on the bottom of the front cover, were quietly introduced by the U.S. government in April and are now required to enter the country. They have an embedded electronic chip that contains the bearer’s identity details and, they are used by the Department of Homeland Security to combat fraud and forgery.
Their introduction, however has taken the tourist travel industry by surprise and is already responsible for the unexpected cancellation of thousands of vacation plans. With summer just around the corner, the new passport rule could potentially affect millions of tourists traveling to the U.S. with their families.
Even travelers that have been granted a Visa Waiver under the ESTA program, via online authorization to travel to the U.S., have been banned from entering the country under the new regulations.
One London resident, Vic Ryan, took to Facebook to complain about the new U.S. passport policy and the effect it had on him in a post that has since been shared more than 60,000 times, reports the BBC.
“I have now spent best part of three hours on the phone being passed from pillar to post. And had to fork out over £500 to try and get to the US on Wednesday to meet up with a very distraught family to try and rescue a totally ruined holiday.”
Ryan told the Express he booked his trip early and was unaware of the changes to America’s travel policy.
“We saved long and hard for this holiday and filled in all the necessary online forms including API and ESTA’s only a couple of weeks ago only to turn up at the check in desk to be advised that I would not be allowed to travel as I did not have a biometric passport.”
Electronic passports were introduced in 2007, but a new Homeland Security directive, enacted in 2015 to help protect the country from a terror attack, means visitors will now need the biometric passports to enter the country. The rule applies to citizens from 38 friendly countries who can enter the U.S. for business or tourism for 90 days without a visa. The change took effect this April and could potentially affect millions of travelers by summer’s end.
A spokeswoman from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the new rules were posted on their travel website and visitors are responsible for having the correct identification to enter the country.
The number of foreigners affected by the change remains open to debate, but the Independent puts the number of affected British citizens at 80,000, while Sky News says that number could be in the millions.
British resident Hannah Elphick was forced to travel to Florida with her two-year-old daughter without her life partner after he was denied permission to travel, according to the BBC. The couple was forced to fork over an additional $1,000 for him to travel to Florida and connect with his family.
“It was awful, we were all pretty upset.”
Airlines and travel agents have been quick to place the blame on tourists saying they are responsible for making sure they adhere to all travel guidelines, but that hasn’t helped vacationing families make their summer plans.
Any tourists hoping to travel to the U.S. this summer should make sure they have an electronic biometric passport.
[Photo credit: Alex Grimm/Getty Images]