Coming soon: E-passport for all

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Bengaluru: The Ministry of External Affairs is gearing up to introduce the much-talked about electronic passport for ordinary citizens as well. The project that has been in the pipeline is expected to kick off soon.

In 2008, the electronic passport project was started off and as a pilot, several diplomatic and official electronic passports were issued. An official close to the Ministry of External Affairs, said the pilot has been tested and now the MEA will take it up for ordinary citizens as well.

“About 300 diplomatic and official passports were issued by the MEA for the pilot for the electronic passport project. It now has been deemed successful,” the official said. The pilot project has been successfully tested for security and other related features.

Electronic passports contain a small electronic chip – an RFID chip – embedded in the cover that contains key information about the passport carrier such as their name, gender, date of birth and a digital photograph of the carrier. Some electronic passports contain biometric information as well and require digital confirmation of physical attributes such as fingerprints and iris patterns.

As per the project plan, the new Indian e-passports will have a 64KB chip with a photograph of the passport holder and subsequently, will include the holder’s fingerprints. The biometric passport also has been tested with passport readers abroad.

After the success of the pilot, in order to initiate the second phase of the project, it is learned that the Ministry of External Affairs has recently floated a global tender calling for vendors specialising in supplying electronic chips that is to be used for the e-passport.

Confirming the development, the Regional Pass­port Officer  in-charge L Madan Kumar Reddy said that the plan has been initiated but the project was still in its initial phase. “There are specific standards laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization  for e-passports,which Ind­ia will first have to meet.

But since the pilot has been successful, the next phase has to be out soon. The e-passport will certainly improve the security features and tampering will be almost impossible,” said Reddy. Besides, this the e-passport can be issued faster once the physical verification is done, he added.

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