Indian citizens will soon be able to apply for a chip-enabled electronic passport (e-passport). The introduction of such passports with advanced security features is part of the government’s push to increase the use of technology and digitisation.
Announcing the development recently, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar said that “the procurement process for the production of electronic-passport is underway.”
He added that the introduction of chip-enabled e-passports will only strengthen the security of travel documents while emphasising the need to expedite their roll out.
What is e-passport?
An e-passport is a biometric identification card that comes embedded with an electronic chip which holds the same information as printed on the passport’s data page such as the holder’s name, date of birth, and other details.
The biometric data of an individual is also saved in the chip. The e-passport will help passengers do away with the hassle of standing in long queues at the immigration counters as it can be scanned within a few minutes.
The government believes that biometric passports will help check the menace of frauds and fake passports as it will be difficult for fraudsters to change data recorded on it. How? Well, passport authentication will fail if anyone tries to tamper with the chip. An e-passport is also designed in a way that the data on it cannot be wiped remotely.
How is an e-passport different from a regular one?
The majority of passports worldwide are machine readable passports, meaning they bear printed information on the identity page, also called the data page, that can be scanned with an optical reader.
Meanwhile, a digital passport is the same as a traditional one with the addition of an inlaid chip which will carry the personal information of the holder as well as the travel details. Coupled with added digital security features, comprising biometrics, e-passports add an extra layer of security further authenticating the bearer’s identity and better linking the passport to its owner.
Additionally, in use cases, the chip is expected to convey data at airport counters within minutes and save time and hassle on the part of passengers and airport staff.
Around 120 countries including the US, UK, and Germany already have biometric e-passport systems in place.
The Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is working with Indian Security Press, Nashik, and National Informatics Centre for chip-enabled e-passports with advanced security features.
More than 1.22 crore passports were issued during 2019 by the Passport Issuing Authority (PIA) in India and abroad, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The total number of Passport Kendras functioning in the country is 517, comprising 93 Passport Seva Kendras (PSK) and 424 Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (POPSK), it said.
Jaishankar said the focus of MEA would be to further strengthen outreach efforts to bring passport services closer to people by opening more POPSKs across the country.
As part of the global outreach exercise, MEA has integrated passport issuance systems in 70 missions and posts abroad, issuing more than 95 per cent passports abroad.