Several countries, such as Australia, Britain and Italy, are now providing biometric passports, in which the photograph of the bearer is put on a microchip so it can be read by face-recognition technology.
But in France, the planned roll-out last year was suspended after unions took legal action to stop the government using a private printing company for the new passports instead of the state-owned National Printers which is mandated to make all administrative documents.
The result has been major woes for French people wanting to travel to the United States, with many forced to cancel their plans. Over the end-of-year holiday period, the US embassy put on extra staff to deal with the increased demand, but the queues have kept growing. Now, according to an embassy spokeswoman, an applicant cannot get an interview date before February 14. The backlog is affecting all those needing visas: not just tourists with newer passports, but also students and business travellers.
French travel companies say the situation is having a significant adverse effect.
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