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The US Embassy in Paris is struggling to deal with a huge increase in demand for visas because the French government has missed Bush's deadline for biometric passports.

From last October the US government requires all newly-issued French passports to contain biometric data. Unfortunately, the French government got involved in an old-school fight with unions over who should supply the new passports and the deadline was missed. As a result any French person with a new passport wishing to visit the US needs a visa. The US embassy in Paris has received 24,000 visa applications in the five months since October - it usually deals with about 8,000 applications in a year.

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Paris told the Reg: "There's been huge demand but we are managing to cope now. We are doing up to 700 interviews a day and we've juggled staff around and extended the hours. At one stage people were having to wait months for interviews, but that's down to a couple of days now."

She said the embassy was moving to only accepting online applications which should speed the process further.

French tour operators claim bookings are down as much as 30 per cent because of the problem and are demanding compensation for lost business.

More details from The Times here.

Passports have contained digital pictures in the UK since 2003 and government says it is on track to include a chip by this autumn. ®

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