Passport Canada announced this week they would be preparing themselves for the launch of electronic passports in 2012.
Like many other electronic passports, the physical appearance of the passport will not change a whole lot. The biggest change comes in the form of a small electronic chip – an RFID chip – embedded in the passport’s cover. Containing key information about the passport carrier such as their name, gender and date of birth the ePassports will also include a digital photograph of the person.
Canadians will have the choice of the current five-year passport or one that is valid for 10 years once the e-passports are implemented.
Though the passports will be launched in a few years, the wait times for ePassports in the conversion process are a cause of worry for some. Back in February, more than 28,000 people in Taiwan applied for ePassports on the same day when the Chinese government decided to raise the fee for passports from NT$400 to NT$1,600. The Philippines saw a recent flood of passport with the looming summer travel season on the horizon receiving at least 30,000 applications since March subsequently doubling the wait time for new passports in that country.
But wait times prior to receiving an ePassport are balanced out by the speed and efficiency of passport usage once they are in the hands of the passport carrier. The RFID chips allow airport attendants or border guards to quickly process travelers and verify their information with a simple swipe of a scanner.
While all ePassports contain the same basic information, others can contain more advanced biometric information such as digital recognition of physical features like fingerprints. London’s Stansted Airport began using facial recognition technology in February introducing Autogates – a self-serve gate that scan the face of passengers and check the digital image against the bearer’s passport photo in seconds.
Canada’s new ePassports won’t have these kinds of high-tech biometrics, just the RFID chips with basic passport information.
As of October 2009, over 100 million e-passports had been issued globally. With over 70 million new e-passports being issued every year, it is estimated that over the next ten years electronic passports will replace most of the 750 million passports currently in use.
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