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     FrontPage Edition: Tue 20 September 2005

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Biometric passports likely to debut in later half of 2006



The US had recently extended its deadline for countries under its Visa Waiver Program to introduce biometric passports by one year to 26 October 2006.
Singapore is one of the countries participating in the US¡¯ Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), which allows their citizens to travel to the US without having to apply for an entry visa, as long as their trip lasts 90 days or less.
ICA would like to clarify that as long as Singaporeans hold a valid machine-readable passport, they will still continue to qualify for visa-waiver entry into the US for trips not exceeding 90 days.
All Singapore passports issued in Singapore from 2 January 1991 are machine-readable. A sample of a machine-readable Singapore passport is attached at Annex.
Adjustment to timing of launch of biometric passports
Following the US¡¯ deadline extension for VWP countries to introduce biometric passports by 26 October 2006, ICA is reviewing the schedule of Singapore¡¯s own biometric passport programme.
The deadline extension presents an excellent opportunity for ICA to conduct further tests to ensure that our biometric passports and systems are robustly tested in a 'live' environment.
Currently, ICA is already conducting readability tests of the chip embedded in the Singapore biometric passport.
The full introduction of the biometric passports is likely to take place in the later half of 2006.
¡°While ensuring the integrity and security of the Singapore passport is an integral part of our overall security efforts, the convenience of Singaporeans when they travel is also a key consideration. ICA will endeavour to meet the requirements for countries under the US¡¯ VWP so that Singaporeans can continue to enjoy visa-free entry into the US,¡± said Mr Tan Kok Guan, Senior Manager of ICA¡¯s Citizen Services Centre, who is also the Project Director for the Singapore biometric passport project.
More details of the launch of Singapore¡¯s biometric passport will be released at a later date.

Source: News Release 20 Sep 2005

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