Introduction: A New Electronic Passport for India
The Government of India is planning to issue e-Passports (electronic passports) to its citizens. The electronic passports will have advanced security features.
Also, the government mentioned that an e-Passport is similar to the current machine-readable passport (MRP), with the addition of an electronic chip, which will have the same information that is appearing on the passport’s data page, that is, the passport holder’s name, date of birth, and photograph.
The personal information of the applicants will be digitally signed and stored in the electronic chip. The government informed that the stored data of the citizens will be used only for issuance of the passport and related services. The data in the chip will not be used for any secondary purpose, thus protecting privacy concerns of the citizens. Additional processes related to transactions are authenticated by digital certificates and signed cryptographically.
The captured data is stored in a secure repository, that is, industry-standard database. Security operations centre performs relevant database security-related controls round the clock.
e-Passports’ samples have been thoroughly tested and the full-scale manufacture and issue will start after the conclusion of the technical ecosystem and infrastructure. These facilities will be made available across all passport offices in India in phases.
Data Stored Inside an e-Passport
The government is preparing to provide chip-enabled e-Passports, which will have advanced security features, and an applicant’s personal information will be stored digitally in the chip that is embedded in the physical passport booklet. The e-Passport will feature contactless smart card technology, including an embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in the passport. The e-Passports will be made at India Security Press, Nashik, and it will be in line with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The government is planning to roll out e-Passports towards the end of this year.
The characteristics of the chip are in line with guidelines formed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is a specialised agency of the United Nations that defines standards for travel documents.
If the chip is tampered or anyone trys to interfere with chip performance, the system will duly be able to identify it, resulting in the failure of the authentication of passport. Further, to provide protection from fraudulent practices and tampering, the e-Passport will provide all the help required by citizens to upgrade the current passports and services.
What Is the New Electronic Passport?
The e-Passport is a biometric passport containing a small electronic chip that stores all the passport information electronically. Presently, all ordinary Indian passports are not biometric. Till now, these secured biometric passports were given only for diplomatic officials.
Ordinary Indian passport holders will soon see the advantage of the electronic travel document. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Government of India are working together for the development of India’s new electronic passport. Passports that are already in circulation will remain legal. But when nonelectronic passports come for renewal, those will be replaced by e-Passports.
Advantages of e-Passports
e-Passports have several benefits when compared with the traditional passports: facilitate the verification of travelers faster at immigration, limit the fake passports’ circulation, help prevent passport fraud by stopping it being copied or tampered with and improve security.
The electronic chip inside an e-Passport holds biometric data unique to that particular individual. The electronic chip restricts a digitalized copy of the passport photograph, which helps in speedy identification of the passport holder and stopping fraud. It will also have all the biographical information printed on the passport. The enhanced security features of electronic passports prevent any unauthorized reading of the data stored.
Other Countries Having Electronic Passports
As many countries have issued electronic passports for increased security they offer, so India is also following them in adopting the biometric passport. More than 100 countries have already issued electronic passports, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.