Currently British travellers can visit the US for up to three months without a visa under the "visa waiver" scheme.
But new passports issued after 26October must hold "biometric" data such as digital images or fingerprints - or a visa will be needed.
The UK authorities will not be able to issue such passports before mid-2005.
British travellers holding a "machine-readable" passport - issued in Britain since November 1991 - can still travel to the US without a visa for the 10-year lifetime of their document.
They will then have their fingerprints and photographs taken on arrival in the US.
But those who get a new passport after October 26, but before biometric ones are available, will have to purchase a visa at a cost of £67.
More than four million Britons a year travel to the US, and hundreds of thousands of them would be affected by the arrangements as they currently stand.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
This is really getting silly:
by Atrios at 09:24