In the Budget speech on 1st February 2022, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman announced, the country will soon introduce e-Passport for its citizens. However, the concept of e-Passports is not new to our country. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) initiated the first phase of e-Passports in India in 2008 by issuing e-Passports to the then President – Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister – Dr. Manmohan Singh and Vice President – Mohammad Hamid Ansari, along with 20,000 officials and bureaucrats.
With this facility soon to be available to Indians, lets figure out what the difference between an e-Passport and a traditional passport is, and what the benefits of having an e-Passport over a traditional passport are.
What is an e-Passport?
In theory, an e-Passport is a traditional passport with a RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip installed in it. All the data displayed at the information page of the passport is stored electronically on this chip. This includes the date of issue and expiration of passport, passport holder’s name, age, gender, date of birth, place of birth, etc. It is also called a Biometric passport as the chip also includes biometrics such as fingerprints, iris scan and digital photograph. Apart from these, the chip also has a unique identification number and a digital signature to avoid tampering of information.
Apart from a chip and the international biometric symbol at the bottom of the cover, it is in no way different than any traditional passport in terms of application, information and verification.
What are the Features of the Indian e-Passport?
- The Indian e-Passport will have better security features and paper quality compared to a traditional passport, making it difficult to destroy and tamper with.
- The software for e-Passport will be developed by NIC (National Informatics Centre) and IIT-Kanpur (Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur).
- The ISP (Indian Security Press) has already been approved by the government to obtain electronic contactless inlays required to manufacture e-Passports, that are ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) compliant.
- Prototype testing was done by the US government laboratories.
- The data stored on the chip will require a specialised printer to print it, which will have digital keys and signatures to ensure multiple levels of security and safety of the data.
Benefits of e-Passport?
- The wait time at immigration check-points will be reduced to less than half with this fully automated data verification process.
- Making counterfeit and fake copies will be difficult, as the e-Passport will be more secure.
- Any kind of tampering with chip-data will result in authentication failure, which will help in filtering out fake passports.
- There’s no risk of anyone accessing or deleting data remotely as the e-Passport is designed with such security risks in mind.
Application Process for e-Passport?
- The application process for an e-Passport is similar to a traditional passport.
- Applicants will receive the e-Passports after the manufacturing process is complete (roughly around 06 months). Until then, only traditional passports will be issued.
- The documents required will be same as well.
- First time applicants will require documents to support their address proof, proof of date of birth along with several other documents.
- For re-issuing it, the applicants will need their old passport and copies of first and last page along with the page with ECR or non-ECR status.
Cost of an Indian e-Passport?
There is no difference in terms of pricing compared to a traditional passport, irrespective of whether you are issuing it for the first time or getting an old passport renewed. The price for a 36 page booklet will be approx. INR 1500 and for a 60 page booklet it will be around INR 2000.
Countries Issuing e-Passport:
Malaysia was the first country in the world to issue e-Passports to its citizens in 1998 (before the ICAO standards were issued). Belgium was the first country in 2004 to issue a fully ICAO complaint e-Passport. Slowly more than 120 other countries such as the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Egypt, China, Japan, UAE, Turkey, Russia, Canada, Brazil, etc. started issuing e-Passports to their citizens. In 2020, Bangladesh became the first country in South-Asia to issue an e-Passport. India is the latest country to join this list.
We as a country have come a long way from fully handwritten and stamped to fully automated and electronically printed passports. The issuance of e-Passport in India will definitely take us a huge step forward in the world of document digitisation. Air travel will become more hassle-free and the immigration check will be less time-consuming adding pleasant experiences to your memories of travels.
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