As we have already pointed out, there is a mismatch between the timetables and chosen Biometric Identifier technologies between the USA, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the UK Government's plans for Biometric Passports and ID Cards.
From 26th October 2004, according to US law, any new passports issued by the 27 USA Visa Waiver Programme countries (including the UK) will need to be "Biometric". Nobody is going to be able to comply by that date. Therefore new passport holders will have to get Holiday or Business visas.
"US urged to extend visa deadline"
What the article neglects to mention is that the USA Visa application fee for a Holiday or Business visa is $100.
Would you pay an extra $100 per person to take your family on a 2 week holiday to say Disneyworld in Florida, and have to queue up at the US Embassy or Consulate in person to appy for a visa ? Remember that you will still face all the extra delays , fingerprinting , photographing when you arrive in the USA, even if you have already gone through all of this at the US Embassy or Consulate.
If the UK Passport Office do actually manage to produce "digital photograph" stored Biometric Passports by mid 2005 (and there is no evidence of their competence to do this on time) this will only be an expensive temporary measure until the planned Biometric ID Cards start to be issued in 2006 or 2007, which will use a different set of Biometric Identifiers.
Existing non-Biometric but Machine Readable Passport holders (i.e. EU "Burgundy" passports) will presumably still be able to use the Visa Waiver scheme.
On their past record the UK Passport Office is likely to increase their fees for these new passports anyway:
"Does nobody else think that the Passport Office is abusing its monopoly and gouging its customers over the price of the extra 16 pages in a 48 page passport (?54.40 from October 2003) compared with a standard 32 page passport (?42 from October 2003 a massive 27% increase from the old price of ?33) ?
Those extra 16 pages (i.e. an extra 4 sheets of paper, printed by the million, all the rest of the Passport and back end systems is the same as a standard passport) cost ?12.40 i.e. ?3.10 per extra sheet of paper (4 pages)"