As of April 1, 2016 anyone entering the US must have a modern biometric e-passport or they will be turned away under the Visa Waiver Program that was signed into law on December 18, 2015. To verify that your passport has been modernized, look for the small biometric symbol on the cover beneath the word “PASSPORT.” If you’re missing the small rectangle with a circle in the middle, you won’t be traveling to the US any time soon.
Travelers have had the option to purchase a biometric passport for nearly a decade, but only recently have they become mandatory for anyone traveling under the Visa Waiver Program. Older passports are still valid, but they will not grant entry to the United States from some countries. Check with your travel authority and confirm your passport is in compliance with the latest laws before traveling to the US as it may take weeks to receive a replacement.
Vic Ryan of Nottinghamshire wrote about his ruined holiday in a Facebook post,
This needs passing around far and wide and will affect anyone in the UK who doesn’t have a biometric passport (also known as an e-passport) if flying to the USA.
I was supposed to be on a flight this morning travelling to Florida for a holiday with my family booked through Thomson’s, we saved long and hard for this holiday and filled in all the neccessary 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 whilst the rest of our family had them, despite calls to the USA from the lady on check in they would not permit travel.
This is a change that came into force from USA Homeland Security on the 1st April 2016 which nobody including Thomson’s seemed to be aware of until they were confronted with it on the day it came into force. Yet a month on Thomson’s are still not advising people who have booked with them of the change and on calling their ”Customer Services” if you can call it that they are just placing the onus back on the passenger citing ”it is the travellers responsibility to check everything is valid for travel”
Do a Google search, it isn’t mentioned on the Gov website, it isn’t mentioned on Thomson’s website either.
My passport was in date and had more than 6 months on it and I had filled out the ESTA’s which were all approved.
We were then advised that if we still wished to travel on another date that we would have to pay an extra £150 each to transfer the booking. with no alternative I advised the rest of our party to go without me and I would try and see what I could do and look to meet up with them at the earliest available date which looks like being Wednesday next week from a different airport.
I have now spent best part of 3 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.
Has anyone else suffered the same issue? What if any legal redress do we have?
So just to be clear, if you are travelling to the USA you won’t be allowed to travel if you have a non biometric passport. The Biometric Passport has a camera logo on the front cover in the centre at the bottom of the page for those who may be unaware of the difference and were introduced gradually from 2006 onwards
I am telling the world and his dog to raise awareness as it is clear that Thomson don’t give two monkeys about customer care.”