Thousands of America-bound travellers will find their passports are scrutinised even more closely from today - and those not holding the latest machine-readable passports will be barred from flying.

Thousands of America-bound travellers will find their passports are scrutinised even more closely from today - and those not holding the latest machine-readable passports will be barred from flying.

The latest tightening of US immigration rules comes into effect this morning, and airlines will be doing all they can to make sure they do not carry ineligible travellers across the Atlantic.

Any passengers denied admission on arrival in the US must be flown back on the first available flight by the airline - which also faces an automatic fine of $3,300 (£1,800) for each infringement.

From today, anyone travelling on the Visa Waiver Programme - the no-visa-required scheme used by most UK travellers - must have an individual, machine-readable passport. This rule took effect last October, but until now US Customs and Border Protection has not enforced it. Instead, those without the right documents have been given a "one-time, last-time" permit to enter. From today, the rule will be strictly applied.

A "machine-readable" passport has two lines of letters, numbers and chevrons at the foot of the photograph page. It does not contain biometric data. The vast majority of British travellers already have suitable documents, since machine-readable passports have been standard issue for a decade. But the airlines are worried that travellers from other countries may not have the right kind of passport.

Children listed on parents' passports will no longer be allowed into America. US authorities will insist on "one passport, one traveller", regardless of a child's age.

Comments