The travel plans of millions of Britons are in jeopardy thanks to a new US rule that requires all passports to have a biometric feature. Already, numerous families were turned away at the check-in counters at airports because they did not possess electronic passports that contained a digital chip.
According to the rule notified by the Department of Homeland Security on 1 April, travellers without an e-passport will no longer qualify for entry to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), even if they already possess an "Esta", online permission. Those without a biometric passport will have to apply for a visa from their local US embassy.
"Effective April 1, 2016, all VWP country citizens must possess an electronic passport to travel to the United States under the VWP. If not in possession of an electronic passport, a valid non-immigrant visa is required to travel to the United States," the website of the US embassy in the UK states.
Most of the passports issued between June and October 2006 do not have the new security feature which means that 2.7 million Britons with passports from that period will need to update their documents before making any US travel plans.
Once such traveller, Vic Ryan from Lincoln, was forced to turn back home after being barred from boarding a flight. He posted a message on Facebook describing his ordeal. "I was supposed to be on a flight travelling to Florida for a holiday with my family booked through Thomson's," he stated.
"We saved long and hard for this holiday and filled in all the necessary online forms including API and ESTAs 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 whilst the rest of our family had them, despite calls to the USA from the lady on check in they would not permit travel."
Ryan was forced the go back home while the rest of his party continued with their trip.
"We have no way of knowing whether a person has a valid passport," a British Airways spokesman told the Telegraph.
Many travel agencies, despite knowing about the new rule, often fail to inform their customers about it. Travel expert Simon Calder told the Daily Mirror: "The travel industry as a whole has not covered itself with glory. While some travel agents and operators have been letting their customers know about the changes, others seem to be relying on the long-established rule that passengers are responsible for adhering to all the right rules.
"It's an extremely stressful and expensive experience to be turned away from your transatlantic flight."