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Security enhancements amid the biometric passport power shuffle

Security enhancements amid the biometric passport power shuffle

Singaporean biometric passports will double in validity length, New Zealand ones will become more secure and political changes see a reshuffle of passport powers around the world.

From October, applicants for new Singaporean adult passports will be issued with a ten-year document, up from the current five-year validity. Those for the under-16s will still only last five years. The price will remain unchanged at S$70 (US$53).

The reason given by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority is to reduce the frequency of renewals and to be more convenient.

The validity had been reduced to five years when the passports became biometric, according to Channel News Asia which quotes the ICA as saying “Reducing the validity period in 2005 was to allow ICA to monitor the stability of the technology and incorporate enhancements, as necessary, when Singaporeans renew their passport.”

The authority now has greater confidence in the application of biometric technology worldwide and the durability of the microchips containing holder biometrics which are embedded in the passports.

According to the latest survey by Henley & Partners, Singaporeans have the second most powerful passport in the world, with visa-free access to 192 countries. They are just one country behind Japan as it edges ahead.

The survey shows the diminishing power of the UK passport following Brexit. According to Forbes, just seven years ago the U.S. topped the list but has now fallen to a tie for seventh.

Also ranked seventh is the New Zealand passport, which is set to have enhanced security features added. The Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) says the features would make the document “one of the most technologically advanced passports in the world”, according to Stuff Travel.

It will be the first passport to have thermochromic ink used on the data page and a kinegram to protect the primary image from tampering. The Maori language will also take precedence throughout the book.

However, as COVID has reduced the demand for travel, it will be a while until the issuing authority has used up stocks of the existing format.

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