The April 1, 2013 deadline for U.S. acquirer processors to accept EMV smart-card payments has arrived.

The deadline, established by Visa in August of 2011, requires acquirer processors and sub-processor service providers to support EMV chip-based transactions, in a format that works with the VisaNet Integrated Payment System.

MasterCard followed suit, with an April deadline for processor infrastructure readiness. By this date, processors must also be able to handle Near Field Communication payments.

However, the requirement does not carry a liability shift, which is the key facet of a separate October, 2015 deadline for merchants. April's deadline essentially states that acquirers needed to certify "their ability to comply with this mandate." Acquirers satisfy that certification process by completing a test with Visa.

In a prepared statement, Visa said today's deadline represents "another important step" toward the goal of accelerating EMV adoption in the U.S.

"Acquirer processors representing the vast majority of U.S. face-to-face sales volume have completed Visa's mandated requirements, and we are working actively with the remaining acquirer processors to help them complete this process," Visa says.

For the EMV migration to succeed, merchants need to be more active in pursuing upgrades at the point of sale, says Richard Crone, chief executive of San Carlos, Calif.-based payments consulting firm Crone Consulting LLC.

"It's been a slow slog here in North America to get EMV in place, and the merchants are not motivated to do this now because there is no return on the investment in their minds," Crone says.

In that regard, the growth of mobile payments provides merchants with the opportunity to "get rid of EMV all together and not wait for issuers to circulate cards," Crone says.

In Visa's view, the industry can't skip steps to speed up the process.

"The acquirer processor mandate is necessary for the successful migration to EMV as it ensures that the processing infrastructure is in place to support EMV chip transactions, and we are pleased with the strong completion rates we are seeing," Visa states.

MasterCard did not respond to inquiries for this story by deadline.

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