Visitors from 27 countries will require a machine-readable passport to enter the United States as of today. The measure applies to nationals exempt from visas under the US visa-waiver programme. The passports are required from citizens of 15 European Union members, as well as from countries such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and Brunei. Last year, around 15 million people from the 27 nations in question visited the United States. Earlier this month, Washington extended a deadline for the group of 27 to introduce fully biometric passports. They will have to be in use by October 26 2006. The US wanted the measure to come into effect this October but some countries said they would not have the technology ready in time. The biometric passport uses an integrated circuit chip capable of storing biographical information. The US says it needs as much information as possible on every visitor to meet the threat of terrorism.