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Ministry plans electronic passports

posted on 08/12/2008: 1240 views

The Government is to begin issuing passports embedded with microchips containing biometric data to Emiratis in a little over 12 months.

Gen Matar Salem bin Mesayed, the director of the information systems department at the Ministry of Interior, said the Government had decided to implement the project to comply with international security standards.

The so-called e-passport, which will be valid for five years, will be embedded with a chip that stores personal details, a photograph and fingerprints. The chips will not include an iris scan but would have the capacity for such data should it be required in the future.

The information on the chips can be scanned and verified at airports, other ports and border posts.

The chips are also equipped with a protection and encryption system intended to prevent the stored information from being forged or altered.

"Our country is proactive in keeping pace with the global technological advancements and has endorsed the state-of-the-art technologies to issue an electronic passport to its citizens,” Gen bin Mesayed said.

So far, more than 20 countries are issuing e-passports.

Gen bin Mesayed said the UAE's version would meet the "highest international standards” based on requirements laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The cost of an e-passport has yet to be determined.

The new passport is expected to speed up passage through ports in the US and EU, and could help smooth visa applications.

The UAE has been discussing plans to issue e-passports to Emiratis since 2005.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, had instructed officials to seek the services of an international consultancy firm to study and develop the e-passport. More than 20 companies have bid for the project; those that are shortlisted are to submit proposals that will include details on how the documents will be issued.

Yousef Ali bin Fadel, a member of the Federal National Council from Umm al Qaiwain, said he hoped the passports would improve the treatment of Emiratis passing through international borders, who like many other people of Arab descent have reported that they are often singled out for extra scrutiny.

"We hope that they would make a difference, the hope is to have some respect for our citizens.

"We understand that some countries have been through a lot and they have to have certain security measures, but some of these countries get their visas on the counter in our country while even our children have to give their fingerprints when they go to some of these countries.” – The National


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