First biometric chipped ePassports issued in UK

Faces on chips...
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Faces on chips...

The first biometric ePassports have been issued in the UK.

The new passports incorporate extra security features, including a chip with the holder's facial biometric. They will be introduced gradually throughout 2006 and will be issued to all applicants by the end of August.

The biometric passports have already been issued abroad, as exclusively revealed by silicon.com last month.

The ePassports, which are already available from the British Consulate Generals in Cairo and Washington, and the rollout to all passport-issuing posts overseas will be completed by July 2006.

Around 40 countries are in the process of introducing ePassports. Countries that are part of the US visa waiver scheme - including the UK - must comply with new International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and begin issuing biometric passports, incorporating a facial image, by October 2006 to remain in the scheme.

Home Office minister Andy Burnham said new passports are the first step towards secure biometric identity documents.

He said in a statement: "Not only will they improve the integrity and security of British passports, they will also help in the detection of forged or manipulated documents while confirming the identity of the individual."

Burnham added: "Biometric technology makes use of the unique features we all have and there is no doubt that the use of biometric information to link a person to a passport will enhance security. In step with our European partners we will also be considering the inclusion of fingerprints as well as facial data in due course."

Externally, the new biometric passport will appear very similar to the current one, apart from a new logo which indicates there is a chip inside.

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