Biometric passport PDF Print E-mail
A biometric passport is a combined paper and electronic identity document that uses biometrics to authenticate the citizenship of travelers. The passport's critical information is stored on a tiny RFID computer chip, much like information stored on smartcards. Like some smartcards, the passport book design calls for an embedded contactless chip that is able to hold digital signature data to ensure the integrity of the passport and the biometric data.

The current staged biometrics for this type of identification system is facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, and iris scans. The International Civil Aviation Organisation defines the biometric standards to be used in passports. ICAO does not currently have plans to use retinal scanning. Only the digital image (usually in jpeg format) of each biometric feature is actually stored in the chip. The biometric algorithm is computed outside of the passport chip by electronic border control systems (e-borders). To store biometric data on the contactless chip, it includes a minimum of 32 kilobytes of EEPROM storage memory, and runs on an interface in accordance with the ISO 14443 international standard, amongst others. These standards ensure interoperability between the different countries and the different manufacturers of the passport books

European biometric passports

The European version of the passport is planned to have digital imaging and fingerprint scan biometrics placed on the contactless chip. This combination of the biometrics aims to create an unrivaled level of security and protection against counterfeit and fraudulent identification papers. Currently, the British biometric passport only uses a digital image and not fingerprinting, however this is being considered by the United Kingdom Passport Service. In Germany, two fingerprints will be stored on the chip beginning November 1st, 2007. The price of the passport will be:

    * Austria (available since 16 June 2006) An adult passport costs €69, while a chip-free child's version costs €26.
    * Belgium (introduced in October 2004): €71 or €41 for children + local taxes. Passports are valid for 5 years.
    * Czech Republic (available since 1 September 2006): 600 CZK for adults (valid 10 years), 100 CZK for kids (valid 5 years)
    * Denmark (available since 1 August 2006): DKK 600, 155 DKK for under 18 and 350 DKK for over 65 (valid for 10 years).
    * Estonia (available since 22 May 2007): EEK 450 (valid for 5 years)
    * Finland (available since 21 August 2006) €46 (valid for max. 5 years)
    * France (available since April 2006): €60 (valid for 10 years)
    * Germany (available since November 2005): <=25 years (valid for 5 years) €37.50, >26 years (valid 10 years) €59.00
    * Greece (available since 26 August 2006) €76,40 (valid for 5 years)
    * Hungary (available since 29 August 2006): 6000 HUF (€24), valid for 5 years, 10000 HUF (€40) valid for 10 years.
    * Iceland (available since 23 May 2006): ISK 5100, ISK 1900 for under 18 and over 67.
    * Republic of Ireland (available since 16 October 2006): €75, valid for 10 years. Free for people over 65.
    * Italy (available since 26 October 2006): €44.66 for 32 page book, €45.62 for 48 page book, valid for 10 years.
    * Lithuania (available since 28 August 2006) LTL 60 (€17)
    * Republic of Macedonia (available since 2 April 2007) : 1500 MKD or € 24.37.
    * Netherlands (available since 28 August 2006): Approximately €11 on top of regular passport (€38.33) cost €49.33
    * Poland (available since 28 August 2006): 140 PLN (€35) for adults, valid 10 years.
    * Portugal (available since July 31 2006 - special passport; August 28 2006 - ordinary passport): €60 for adults (€50 for those who are over 65 years old), valid for 5 years. €40 for children under 12, valid for 2 years. All passports have 32 pages.
    * Slovenia (available since 28 August 2006): €36 for adults, valid for 10 years. €31 for children from 3 to 18 years of age, valid for 5 years. €28 for children up to 3 years of age, valid for 3 years. All passports have 32 pages, a 48-page version is available at a €2 surcharge.
    * Spain (available since 28 August 2006) There are plans to include fingerprints of both index fingers in three years < 30 years (valid for 5 years) >= 30 (valid 10 years) €16.50
    * Sweden (available since October 2005): SEK 400 (valid for 5 years)
    * UK (introduced March 2006) £66 for adults and £45 for children under the age of 16.).
    * Ukraine (available since June 2007): 170 UAH (about €25, valid for 10 years).

    None of the issued biometric passports mentioned above include fingerprints. Addition of digital fingerscans to German passports is planned for March 2007.

United States biometric passports

The U.S. version of the biometric passport (which is also referred to as an "Electronic Passport") will only have digital imaging placed onto the contactless chip, as opposed to the European version. However, the chip used in the U.S. passport will be large enough (64 kilobytes) to allow it to contain additional biometric identifiers should the need arise in the future. The U.S. Department of State began issuing biometric passports to government officials and diplomats in early 2006. It began issuing regular biometic passports at its Colorado Passport Agency on August 14, 2006; though they still expect that nearly all new or renewed passports issued by the department to American citizens will be biometric by the end of 2006, other sources say it won't happen until mid-2007. Although a system able to perform a facial recognition match between the bearer and his or her image stored on the contactless chip is desired, it is unclear when such a system will be deployed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at its ports of entry.

A high level of security became a top priority in late 2001 for the United States. This tightened security required border control to take steps in cracking down on counterfeit paper passports. In October 2004, the production stages of this high-tech passport commenced as the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) issued awards to the top bidders of the program. The awards totaled to roughly $1,000,000 for startup, development, and testing. The driving force of the initiative is the U.S. Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the "Border Security Act"), which states that such smartcard IDs will be able to replace visas. As for foreigners traveling to the U.S., if they wish to enter U.S. visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), they are now are required to possess machine-readable passports that comply with international standards. Additionally, for travelers holding a valid passport issued on or after October 26, 2006, such a passport must be a biometric passport if used to enter the U.S. visa-free under the VWP.


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