The 27 nations affected, which include close allies like the UK, Japan and Australia, now have until 26 October 2005 to start issuing the passports under a US law designed to tighten border security after the September 11 attacks.

The Bush administration sought an extension after concluding most of the countries, whose citizens are generally permitted to visit the US without a visa for up to 90 days, would miss the original 26 October 2004 deadline.

In April, the Bush administration said it would begin fingerprinting and photographing visitors from visa-waiver countries, extending a policy that applies to most foreigners who visit the US.

The extension applies to Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.