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A biometric passport, also known as an e-passport, ePassport or a digital passport, is a combined paper and electronic passport that contains biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers. It uses contactless smart card technology, including a microprocessor chip (computer chip) and antenna (for both power to the chip and communication) embedded in the front or back cover, or center page, of the passport. Document and chip characteristics are documented in the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) Doc 9303. The passport's critical information is both printed on the data page of the passport and stored in the chip. Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is used to authenticate the data stored electronically in the passport chip making it expensive and difficult to forge when all security mechanisms are fully and correctly implemented.
The currently standardized biometrics used for this type of identification system are facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, and iris recognition. These were adopted after assessment of several different kinds of biometrics including retinal scan. The ICAO defines the biometric file formats and communication protocols to be used in passports. Only the digital image (usually in JPEG or JPEG2000 format) of each biometric feature is actually stored in the chip. The comparison of biometric features is performed outside 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/IEC 14443 international standard, amongst others. These standards intend interoperability between different countries and different manufacturers of passport books.
Biometric passports are equipped with protection mechanisms to avoid and/or detect attacks:
A typical workflow of an automatic border control system:
Since the introduction of biometric passports several attacks are presented and demonstrated:
Privacy proponents in many countries question and protest the lack of information about exactly what the passports' chip will contain, and whether they impact civil liberties. The main problem they point out is that data on the passports can be transferred with wireless RFID technology, which can become a major vulnerability. Although this could allow ID-check computers to obtain a person's information without a physical connection, it may also allow anyone with the necessary equipment to perform the same task. If the personal information and passport numbers on the chip are not encrypted, the information might wind up in the wrong hands.
and adding that the Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) network's research team (a body of IT security experts funded by the European Union) has "also come out against the ePassport scheme... [stating that] European governments have forced a document on its citizens that dramatically decreases security and increases the risk of identity theft."
Most security measures are designed against untrusted citizens (the "provers"), but the scientific security community recently also addressed the threats from untrustworthy verifiers, such as corrupt governmental organizations, or nations using poorly implemented, unsecure electronic systems. New cryptographic solutions such as private biometrics are being proposed to mitigate threats of mass theft of identity. These are under scientific study, but not yet implemented in biometric passports.
Another concern is that the photograph looks blurry and less clear, as a result of the way it has been prepared.
Names containing non-English letters are usually spelled in the correct way in the non-machine-readable zone of the passport, but are transcribed according to the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the machine-readable zone, e.g. the German umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and the letter ß are transcribed as AE / OE / UE and SS, so Müller becomes MUELLER, Groß becomes GROSS, and Gößmann becomes GOESSMANN.
The ICAO transcription is mostly used for computer-generated and internationally used documents such as airplane tickets, but sometimes (like in US visas) also simple letters are used (MULLER, GOSSMANN). German credit cards use in the non-machine-readable zone either the correct or the transcribed spelling.
Some German names are always spelled with "transcription" such as the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or the Third-Reich politician Paul Joseph Goebbels; however, in the name of the German football player Ulrich Hoeneß, the umlaut is transcribed, but the letter ß is not (the spelling in the machine-readable passport zone is HOENESS, the ß being transcribed here).
The three possible spelling variants of the same name (e.g. Müller / Mueller / Muller) in different documents sometimes lead to confusion, and the use of two different spellings within the same document (like in the passports of German-speaking countries) may give people who are unfamiliar with the foreign orthography the impression that the document is a forgery.
The Austrian passport can (but does not always) contain a note in German, English, and French that AE / OE/ UE / SS are the common transcriptions of Ä / Ö / Ü / ß.
Names originally written in a non-Latin writing system may pose another problem if there are no internationally recognized transcription standards. For example, the Russian name Горбачёв is transcribed "Gorbachev" in English, "Gorbatschow" in German,"Gorbatchov" in French, "Gorbachov" in Spanish, and so on.
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European passports planned to have digital imaging and fingerprint scan biometrics placed on the RFID chip. This combination of the biometrics aims to create an unrivaled level of security and protection against fraudulent identification papers. Technical specifications for the new passports has been established by the European Commission. The specifications are binding for the Schengen agreement parties, i.e. the EU countries, except Ireland and UK, and three of the four European Free Trade Association countries – Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. These countries are obliged to implement machine readable facial images in the passports by 28 August 2006, and fingerprints by 29 June 2009. The European Data Protection Supervisor has stated that the current legal framework fails to "address all the possible and relevant issues triggered by the inherent imperfections of biometric systems". Currently, the British biometric passport only uses a digital image and not fingerprinting, however this is being considered by HM Passport Office. The German passports printed after 1 November 2007 contain two fingerprints, one from each hand, in addition to a digital photograph. The Romanian passports will also contain two fingerprints, one from each hand. The Netherlands also takes fingerprints and is the only EU member that plans to store these fingerprints centrally. According to EU requirements, only nations that are signatories to the Schengen Acquis are required to add fingerprint biometrics. In these EU nations, the price of the passport will be:
The Albanian biometric passport is available since May 2009, costs 6000 Lekë, (€50) and is valid for 10 years. The microchip contains ten fingerprints, the photo and all the data written on the passport.
On 15 June 2012, the government announced the availability of a new biometric passport at a cost of 400 Pesos, valid for 10 years
In July 2012 Armenia introduced two new identity documents to replace ordinary passports of Armenian citizens. One of the documents – ID card with electronic signature and other personal data, is used locally within the country, and the biometric passport with an electronic chip is used for traveling abroad. Electronic chip of biometric passport contains digital images of fingerprints, photo and electronic signature of the passport holder. The passport will be valid for 10 years.
The Australian biometric passport was introduced in October 2005. The microchip contains the same personal information that is on the color photo page of the ePassport, including a digitized photograph. A standard (35-Visa Pages) adult passport (>18 years) is A$226 valid for 10 years; for children, the fee is A$113 valid for 5 years. A Frequent traveler (67-Visa Pages) adult passport (>18 years) is A$340 valid for 10 years; for children, the fee is A$170 valid for 5 years. Airport security has been upgraded to allow Australian ePassport bearers to clear immigration controls more rapidly, and facial recognition technology has been installed at immigration gates.
Azerbaijan introduced biometric passports in September 2013. The passports will include information about the passport holder's facial features, as well as his finger and palm prints. Each passport will also include a personal identification number. The program covers the development of the appropriate legislative framework and information systems to ensure information security.
Brazil started issuing ICAO compliant passports in December 2006. However just in December 2010 it began to issue passports with microchips, first in the capital Brasília and Goiás state. Since the end of January 2011 this last is available to be issued all over Brazil. It is valid for 5 years for adults and costs R$ 156.07 (approximately €65)
The Bruneian biometric passport was introduced on 17 February 2007. It was produced by German printer Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) following the Visa Waiver Program's requirements. The Bruneian ePassport has the same functions as the other biometric passports.
Only the ePassport (Canadian Biometric Passport) is available to Canadians since 1 July 2013.
Chile introduced new biometric passports and national ID cards on 2 September 2013.
On 30 January 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China launched a trial issuance of e-passports for public affairs. The face, fingerprint and other biometric features of the passport holder will be digitalized and stored in pre-installed contactless smart chip in the passport. On 1 July 2011, the Ministry began issuing biometric passports to all individuals conducting public affairs work overseas on behalf of the Chinese government.
In the Dominican Republic, biometric passports began to be issued in May 2004. However the Dominican biometric passports do not carry the "chip inside" symbol . In January 2010, the cost of the passport was 1,250 DOP, about 35–40 USD at that date.
The Egyptian Government has, from 5 February 2007, introduced the electronic Passport (e-Passport) and electronic Document of Identity for Visa Purposes (e-Doc/I) which are compliant with the standard of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Digital data including holder's personal data and facial image will be contained in the contactless chip embedded in the back cover of e-Passport and e-Doc/I.
Available since 1 March 2010 and costing GH¢ 50.00–100.00 for adults and children. The passports contain several other technological characteristics other than biometric technology. However the Ghanaian biometric passports do not carry the "chip inside" symbol (), similar to the Pakistani passport, which is mandatory for ICAO-standard electronic passports.
In 2006, the Immigration Department announced that Unihub Limited (a PCCW subsidiary company heading a consortium of suppliers, including Keycorp) had won the tender to provide the technology to produce biometric passports. In February 2007, the first ePassport was introduced. The cover of the new biometric passport remains essentially the same as that of previous versions, with the addition of the "electronic passport" logo at the bottom. However, the design of the inner pages has changed substantially. The design conforms with the document design recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The new ePassport featured in the 2008 Stockholm Challenge Event and was a finalist for the Stockholm Challenge Award in the Public Administration categeory. The Hong Kong SAR ePassport design was praised on account of the "multiple state-of-the-art technologies [which] are seamlessly integrated in the sophisticated Electronic Passport System (e-Passport System)".
Available since 23 May 2006 and costing ISK 5100 (ISK 1900 for under 18 and over 67).
India has recently initiated first phase deployment of Biometric e-Passport for Diplomatic passport holders in India and abroad. The new passports have been designed indigenously by the Central Passport Organization, the India Security Press, Nashik and IIT Kanpur. The passport contains a security chip with personal data and digital images. Initially, the new passports will have a 64KB chip with a photograph of passport holder and subsequently include the holder's fingerprint(s). The biometric passport has been tested with passport readers abroad and is noted to have a 4 second response time – less than that of a US Passport (10 seconds). The passport need not be carried in a metal jacket for security reasons as it first needs to be passed through a reader, after which generates access keys to unlock the chip data for reader access.
India has also given out a contract to TCS for issuing e-passports through passport seva kendra. India plans to open 77 such centers across the country to issue these passports.
On 25 June 2008 Indian Passport Authority issued first e-passport to the President of India, Pratibha Patil. The e-passport is under the first phase of deployment and will be initially restricted to diplomatic passport holders. It is expected to be made available to ordinary citizens from 2013 onwards.
Indonesia started issuing e-Passports on 26 January 2011, though the e-passport is not a mandatory until 2015. The passport costs Rp655,000(US$77) for the 48-page valid for 5 years, and Rp405,000 (US$48) for the 24-page passport valid for 5 years.
Iran started issuing diplomatic and service biometric passports in July 2007. Ordinary biometric passports began to be issued on 20 February 2011. The cost of a new passport is approximately $37 USD (1,125,000IRR) .
In April 2009, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior – the general passports directorate revealed new electronic system to issue the new A-series passports in contract with the German SAFE ID Solutions, the new series is a biometric passport available to the public which would cost 25,000 Iraqi dinars or about $20 USD.
As of July 2013, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior will be issuing biometric passports for those citizens who wish to receive them. For a 2-year pilot period under the Biometric Database Law, this will be optional. After the program is reviewed in 2015, if the decision is made to continue, only biometric passports will be issued. As of August 2013, any passport expiring in more than 2 years can be replaced with a biometric one upon request, free of charge. Passports expiring within 2 years will be charged the full fee.
The Japanese government started issuing biometric passports in March 2006. With this, Japan has met requirements under the US Visa Waiver Program which calls for countries to roll out their biometric passports before 26 October 2006.
In May 2011, the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Kosovo[a] announced that biometric passports will be issued in the summer of 2011 after the winning firm is chosen and awarded the production of the passports.
Applications for electronic passports and electronic travel permits have been started and processed since 1 September 2009.
Available since 2 April 2007 and costing 1500 MKD or c. €22.
Malaysia was the first country in the world to issue biometric passports in 1998, after a local company, IRIS Corporation, developed the technology. Malaysia is however not a member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and its biometric passport does not conform to the same standards as the VWP biometric document because the Malaysian biometric passport was issued ahead of the VWP requirement. The difference lies in the storage of fingerprint template instead of fingerprint image in the chip, the rest of the technologies are the same. Also the biometric passport was designed to be read only if the receiving country has the authorization from the Malaysian Immigration Department. Malaysia started issuing ICAO compliant passports from February 2010.
Since 2005 the SMOM diplomatic and service passports include biometric features and are compliant with ICAO standards.
The Moldovan biometric passport is available from 1 January 2008. The new Moldovan biometric passport costs approximately 760 MDL (€45) and is obligatory from 1 January 2011. The passport of the Republic of Moldova with biometric data contains a chip which holds digital information, including the holder's signature, as well as the traditional information. It is valid for 7 years (for persons over 7) and 4 years (for persons less than 7) respectively. It was introduced as a request of European Union to safeguard the borders between the E.U. and Republic of Moldova.
The Montenegrin biometric passport was introduced in 2008. It costs approximately €40.
The Moroccan biometric passport was introduced in 2008. In December 2009, early limited trials have been extended, and the biometric passport is available from 25 September 2009 to all Moroccan citizens holders of an electronic identity card. It costs 300DH (approximately €27).
Introduced in November 2005, like Australia and the USA, New Zealand is using the facial biometric identifier. There are two identifying factors – the small symbol on the front cover indicating that an electronic chip has been embedded in the passport, and the polycarbonate leaf in the front (version 2009) of the book inside which the chip is located.
Nigeria is currently one of the few nations in Africa that issues biometric passports, and has done it since 2007.The harmonized ECOWAS Smart electronic passport issued by the Nigerian Immigrations Service is powered by biometric technology in tandem with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) specifications for international travels.
Travellers' data captured in the biometric passport can be accessed instantly and read by any security agent from any spot of the globe through an integrated network of systems configured and linked to a centrally-coordinated passport data bank managed by the Nigerian Immigrations Service.
The introduction of biometric passports to Norway began in 2005 and supplied by Setec, costing NOK 450 for adults, or c. €50, NOK 270 for children.
In 2007 the Norwegian government launched a ‘multi-modal’ biometric enrolment system supplied by Motorola. Motorola's new system enabled multiple public agencies to digitally capture and store fingerprints, 2D facial images and signatures for passports and visas.
In 2004, Pakistan became among one of the first countries in the world to issue the biometric passports, which are according to the publisher compliant with ICAO standards and dubbed Multi-biometric e-Passports, however they do not carry the "chip inside" symbol (), which is mandatory for ICAO-standard electronic passports.
As of 2012, Pakistan has adopted the Multi-biometric e-Passport that is now compliant with ICAO standards.
On 11 August 2009, the first biometric passport was released for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The new e-passport has various security features, including a hidden encoded image; an ultra-thin, holographic laminate; and a tamper-proof electronic microchip costing at around 950 pesos.
On 20 April 2008, Qatar started issuing biometric passports which are ICAO compliant. A Qatari passport costs QR100.
Russian biometric passport was introduced in 2006. As of 2010, it costs 2.500 rubles (approximately USD 90), use only printed data and photo (i.e. no optional fingerprint etc.), BAC-crypted. Biometric passport issued after 1 March 2010 is valid for 10 years. Russian biometric passports are currently issued within Russia and in all of its consulates.
On 21 June 2006, Saudi Arabia started issuing biometric passports which are ICAO compliant. A Saudi Arabian passport costs SR150.
Available since 7 July 2008, and cost 3.600 RSD or approximately €32. (Aged 3 or less a Serbian passport is valid for 3 years, aged 3 to 14 it is valid for 5 years, otherwise passport remain valid for 10 years.)
The Immigation & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore introduced the Singapore biometric passport (BioPass) on 15 August 2006. With this, Singapore has met requirements under the US Visa Waiver Program which calls for countries to roll out their biometric passports before 26 October 2006.
The new "e-passport" of Somalia was introduced and approved by the nation's Transitional Federal Government on 10 October 2006. It costs $100 USD to apply for Somalis living inside of Somalia, and $150 USD for Somalis living abroad. Somalia is now the first country on the African continent to have introduced the "e-passport".
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of South Korea started issuing biometric passports to its citizens on 25 August 2008. The cost is fixed to 55,000 Won or 55 US Dollars, and the validity of ordinary passport is 10 years.
The Republic of South Sudan started issuing internationally recognized electronic passports in January 2012. The passports were officially launched by the President Salva Kiir Mayardit on 3 January 2012 in a ceremony in Juba. The new passport will be valid for five years.
The Republic of the Sudan started issuing electronic passports to citizens in May 2009. The new electronic passport will be issued in three categories. The citizen's passport (ordinary passport) will be issued to ordinary citizens and will contain 48 pages. Business men/women who need to travel often will have a commercial passport that will contain 64 pages. Smaller passports that contain 32 pages only will be issued to children. The microprocessor chip will contain the holder's information. Cost to obtain a new passport will be SDG 250 (approximately USD 100), 200 for students and 100 for kids. and the validity of the citizen's passport will be 5 years, and 7 years for the commercial passport.
The Swiss biometric passport has been available since 4 September 2006. By a narrow majority of 50.14%, Swiss voters decided in May 2009 to accept the introduction of a biometric passport. Since 1 March 2010, all issued passports are biometric, containing a photograph and two fingerprints recorded electronically. The costs are CHF 140.00 for adults and CHF 60.00 for children (−18 years old).
The Taiwan biometric passport has been available since 29 December 2008. It costs NT$1,600 for an ordinary passport with either 3, 5 or 10 years validity.  Taiwan's Central Engraving and Printing Plant prints passports for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan for several decades. During this period, the passport has been redesigned various times. The current e-Passport (or known as Biometric passport) is fitted with RFID technology that facilitates Taiwan passport immigration clearances worldwide.
Biometric passports will be issued in Tajikistan from 1 February 2010. On 27 August 2009, Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs and German Muhlbauer signed a contract on purchase of blank biometric passports and appropriate equipment for Tajikistan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand introduced the first biometric passport for Diplomats and Government officials on 26 May 2005. From 1 June 2005, a limited quantity of 100 passports a day was issued for Thai citizens, however, on 1 August 2005 a full operational service was installed and Thailand became the first country in Asia to issue an ICAO compliant biometric passport.
In August 2009, Togo became one of the first African countries to introduce the biometric passport. The price of the passport was then set at 30000 CFA Francs for the Togolese residing in Togo. For the Togolese residing abroad, the price varies.
Turkish passports which are compatible with European Union standards have been available since 1 June 2010. Colours of the new biometric passports have also be changed. Accordingly, regular passports; claret red, special passports; bottle green and diplomatic passports wrap black colours.
Most recently Turkish Minister of the State announced that the government is printing the new passports at government minting office since the private contractor failed to deliver.
The current cost of issuing a 10-year passport in Turkey is 387.80 TL.
Turkmenistan became the first country in ex-USSR, in mid-Asia region to issue an ICAO compliant biometric passport. Passport is available since 10 July 2008.
Issuance of Ukraine's biometric passports and identity cards is regulated by law that stipulates that biometric identity documents are to be introduced on 1 January 2013. However, in practice, Ukraine's passports and national identity cards are expected to be available in April 2013.
The UAE ministry of interior stated that it will start issuing emirati biometric passports at the end of year 2010.
The U.S. version of the biometric passport (sometimes referred to as an electronic passport) has descriptive data and a digitized passport photo on its contactless chips, and does not have fingerprint information placed onto the contactless chip. However, the chip is large enough (64 kilobytes) for inclusion of biometric identifiers. The U.S. Department of State now issues biometric passports only. Non-biometric passports are valid until their expiration dates.
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 priority for the United States after the attacks of 11 September 2001. High security required cracking down on counterfeit 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 Identity cards will be able to replace visas. As for foreigners travelling to the U.S., if they wish to enter U.S. visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), they are now required to possess machine-readable passports that comply with international standards. Additionally, for travellers holding a valid passport issued on or after 26 October 2006, such a passport must be a biometric passport if used to enter the U.S. visa-free under the VWP.
In Uzbekistan, 23 June 2009 Islam Karimov issued a Presidential Decree "On measures to further improve the passport system in the Republic of Uzbekistan." On 29 December 2009 the President of Uzbekistan signed a decree to change the dates for a phased exchange of populations existing passport to the biometric passport. In accordance with this decree, biometric passports will be phased in, beginning with 1 January 2011. In the first phase, the biometric passport will be issued to employees of ministries, departments and agencies of the republic, individuals who travel abroad or outside the country, as well as citizens who receive a passport in connection with the achievement of a certain age or for other grounds provided by law. The second phase will be for the rest of the population who will be to able get new passports for the period from 2012 to 2015.
Issued after July 2007, Venezuela was the first Latin American country issuing passports including RFID chips along other major security improvements. The chip has photo and fingerprints data.
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ICAO passport standards and related materials:
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