Sanjay Bhattacharyya, the secretary to the government of India in the Ministry of External Affairs, recently announced that the country will soon introduce e-passport for citizens. In a Twitter post, he said that the next-gen passports will ensure security of biometric data and smooth passage through immigraton posts globally. He further mentioned that these passports are ICAO-compliant and will be produced at India Security Press in Nashik, Maharashtra.
The idea of e-passport is not new and it was first announced sometime back by external affairs minister S Jaishankar. The first e-passport with biometric details in India was issued to former President Pratibha Patil in 2008. The biometric passports are currently issued in countries including Germany, UK and Bangladesh.
How an e-passport works
At first glance, an e-passport looks just like a regular passport. However, an e-passport comes fitted with a small electronic chip, something similar to as seen on a driver’s licence. The microchip stores all the information that is printed on your passport including name, date of birth, address and other details. The microchip will help immigration counters to quickly verify details of a traveller. The move will also help to reduce the circulation of fake passports. The chip is rumoured to have enhanced security features, making it difficult for fraudsters to tamper with the information stored.
Currently travellers have to spend lots of time at immigration counters to complete the formalities as the officials have to physically go through each detail on the passport. With an e-passport, the time spent at an immigtation counter is expected to go down by more than 50%. The microchip is also said to store the biometric details along with other information which makes it easier to identify a traveller digitally. The chip can store details of your previous trips.
What is a biometric data
In simple terms, biometrics are the metric that are related to features of your body. This data has to be unique and it can be your eyes, fingerprint, face and other features. One of the most common examples of biometric technology that most of us use daily is the smartphone’s fingerprint and facial recognition feature. These security features use your unique physical characteristics to verify your identity.
In the case of e-passport, this biometric data can be your fingerprints. The government already saves your fingerprints before issuing a new passport. With this information stored in the microchip, it will be easier to compare and verify your identity at any immigration counter.
What will change and not with e-passports
The procedure to apply for a new passport will remain the same and there will be no changes in the application form as well. As per the reports, all 36 passport offices in India under the Ministry of External Affairs will issue e-passports. The issuance process will also remain the same.
Till now, the e-passport issued by the government in the trial run were in the form of personalised printed booklets. The chip in the new passports will be placed at the front and it will come with an internationally recognised logo that is meant for e-passports. These chips will be tough and hard to destroy.