The New York Times reports today (Sept. 9, 2003) that the Bush Administration has decided to delay implementation of the machine readable passport requirement for travel under the visa waiver program. Under a rule which was to have taken effect on October 1, 2003, travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program would be required to possess a machine-readable passport. Any traveler without a machine-readable passport would be required to obtain a visa before coming to the United States.
According to the Times, enforcement of this rule will be postponed until October 2004. The postponement was ordered because of the perceived "chaos" which could engender at ports of entry, given estimates that more than a third of passports of Western European countries in circulation lack machine readable features. The rule itself was mandated by the USA Patriot Act of 2001, and applies to all categories of passports-- regular, diplomatic, and official.
Notwithstanding this reported postponement, Belgian passports must be machine readable for purposes of visa waiver travel, since the rule was fully implemented with regard to Belgian passports in May of this year.