Electronic Passports Issued Today

Today is the day the passport office start issuing the new ePassports, (electronic biometric passports) after successful testing independantly in the Netherlands (to meet EU standards) and Viriginia in the US (to meet US standards). The deadline was October 26th but looks like they’re set to start rolling out from today, October 16th. (See older Department of Foreign Affairs press release here)

While the new biometric passport will look much the same as its predecessor, it will have a microchip embedded in it which contains the digitised facial image and personal details of the passport holder as they appear on the data page. The microchip can be read electronically at border controls. The Government has no plans, at this stage, to include a citizen’s finger prints. Ireland is internationally recognised as having one of the most advanced passport documents in the world. The proposed legislation will further augment the trust that the international community places in our passports.

As biometric passport reading facilities are progressively introduced at overseas airports, the new technology will strengthen border security and streamline the movement of passengers through airports.

The biometric passport incorporates a number of important security features designed to protect the identity of the bearer. A special code is used to write data to the microchip, the chip is protected by a secure electronic “key”, and an additional access code guards against electronic eavesdropping or “skimming” of information on the microchip.

The project was estimated to have cost around €8.8m for 2006.