External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has revealed that India will soon embark on the next stage of the Passport Seva Programme (PSP-Version 2.0), which will take safety and convenience in passport verification and issuance within the country to another level. Moreover, this significant enhancement also paves the path for the introduction of e-passports in India and even makes it easier to apply for a passport online.

Traditional Indian Passport
Traditional Indian Passport
Image Credit: NDTV

The Indian E-passport, also known as a biometric passport, is an international travel document that will contain your digital photograph, signatures, fingerprints, and personal information such as your name, surname, date of birth, etc. Unlike a “traditional passport”, the e-passports are equipped with a small microchip embedded within the passport booklet. Within this microchip, lies a storage capacity of 64 kilobytes which stores all your important information. The microchip holds your essential passport details found on the second page.

Indian E-passport
Indian E-Passport

The E-passport is already available in India since 2021 and the E-passport facility with embedded chips will roll out in 2022-23, as stated by the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the union budget 2022. This will make the passports more difficult to forge and will help to improve security at international borders. Once PSP 2.0 is launched, all the passports made will have chips. Even if your old passport is empty, you can still get a new one. Just submit your old passport at your designated center, and you can apply for a new chip passport.

Jaishankar in his message stated on the occasion of Passport Seva Divas that “I would like to call on all our passport issuing authorities in India and abroad to join me in renewing our pledge to provide passport and related services to citizens in a timely, reliable, accessible, transparent and efficient manner.” He further stated, “In line with the Prime Minister’s vision of enhancing the ‘Ease of Living’ for citizens, these initiatives will usher in a new paradigm of EASE, where EASE stands for:

E: Enhanced passport services to citizens, using a digital ecosystem

A: Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered service delivery

S: Smoother overseas travel using chip-enabled e-passports

E: Enhanced data security

While sharing Jaishankar’s message on Twitter, the Ministry of External Affairs stated, “Here is a message from EAM @DrSJaishankar, as we observe the Passport Seva Divas today. #TeamMEA reaffirms its commitment to provide passport and related services to citizens in a timely, reliable, accessible, transparent, and efficient manner.” He further also emphasized that “PSP has significantly contributed towards the Government’s goal of a Digital India’, with milestones such as mPassport Seva Mobile App, mPassport Police App, integration of PSP with DigiLocker, and the ‘apply from anywhere’ scheme.”

“While in 2014, there were 77 Passport Seva Kendra’s (PSKs) in the country, this number has increased 7-fold and stands at 523 today. In the context of POPSKS, I would like to acknowledge the role of the Department of Posts and state police authorities as esteemed partners,” the statement said, quoting Jaishankar.

The common citizen of the country can get the first e-passport in the next two months. All the technical tests of these chip-enabled passports are almost complete. The details written in the passport and the chip data have been adapted from ICAO standards. Trials for Indian e-passports are happening and in progress with chip readers from various countries. They are making sure that the chip doesn’t just read, but also quickly matches the digital signature and displays the chip’s data on the receiver’s computer.

The E-passport’s chip will have all the biometric details and all those things that are already there in the booklet. This scheme will be rolled out step by step to avoid crowding at the passport centers. To make this happen, they’re upgrading the technology at these centers. According to reports, Indian Security Press Nashik is printing 70 lakh e-passport blank booklets in the first year. This press has got an order to print 4.5 crore chip passports.

The new passport comes with 41 advanced features. This means that in about 120 countries following the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), you can finish the immigration process quickly at the airport as it will take only a few minutes. The Ministry of External Affairs has shared that they plan to install new and upgraded biometric systems at airports for handling E-passports. With these systems, the photo in your passport will be compared to a live picture taken during immigration in just a few seconds.

The impending launch of chip-based E-passports takes us a huge step forward in the way Indians travel internationally. With its robust security features, seamless processing, and global acceptance, this technological leap promises to make the entire travel experience more secure, efficient, and enjoyable.

As a nation, we have traversed a significant journey, transitioning from entirely handwritten and stamped passports to a realm of complete automation and electronically printed E-passports, and as all the Indians eagerly await this transformative change, the future of international travel is brighter than ever before and will also add some magical experiences to your memories of travels.

If your passport is already sorted, how about putting it to use?? Plan a trip, apply for your visa online, book your cheap flight tickets and accommodation, lock your holiday package for your favorite destination and get going.

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