Cameroon unveils new details on biometric passport
Cameroon’s General Delegation for National Security (DGSN) has announced July 1 as the new date to commence production of the country’s biometric passports, which will be delivered within 48 hours of the applicant’s submission.
In September last year, a deal was sealed with INCM-Augentic for the production of a modern travel document that meets international standards. The contract is formulated on a Build-Operate-Transfer basis and will run for ten years.
In a press conference in the capital Yaounde on June 8, the Secretary General of DGSN, Dominique Baya, gave other details about the issuance procedure including application and pre-enrollment, biometric capture, production proper, withdrawal, technical and logistical infrastructure modalities, as well as a schedule for shutting down the old manual system.
The daily production capacity of the passports is 1,500 in normal times and 2,200 in optimum production, the official announced.
Initially programed to be commissioned in March, Baya said the plans fell through “due to the slowdown in economic and industrial activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in the late delivery of enrollment and production equipment as well as certain essential materials for finishing work at the new production centre.”
The official said the new central production centre in Yaounde is nearing completion, with work also advancing on the Douala and Garoua secondary center. Renovation works, he added, are also ongoing on other existing infrastructure in all of the administrative regional headquarters.
Among other steps already completed, the official said the specimen of the new passports has been designed and validated, a huge quantity of blank booklets for all three categories of the passports is already available, the functionality of the IT system has been specified and developed, and all necessary equipment for the computerized system have been delivered. Personnel to manage the system are in the process of being trained, the deployment of the IT equipment to Emigration and Immigration Police Stations and diplomatic missions is ongoing, and the process for the recognition of the new passport by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has already been initiated.
Enrollment, production details
According to the DGSN official, application documents for the passport can be sent online using a specific website that shall be dedicated to that purpose, but the capture of biometric data including facial scans, fingerprints and digital signatures, will be done in physical locations. If not done at the central production center in Yaounde, data collected from any center across the country will be sent to the central server in real time. Payment of production fees can be done using mobile money services, he explained.
After verifying and okaying the application documents, the passport shall be produced within a period of 48 hours, with the applicant informed by SMS or email about when to pick up their document. Withdrawal will be done by confirming the fingerprint biometrics of the owner with that in the passport chip, except in cases of a third-party withdrawal which will have to be done following legal methods in place, the DGSN SG disclosed.
How will the passport look like?
The DGSN Secretary General explained that the new passports, which will have a five-year validity, will be produced with a polycarbonate data page, with the personalization of data through laser engraving.
There are various aspects including certain security features in the form of an electronic chip that will be designed and configured into the 32-page travel document. Apart from meeting ICAO standards, the passport will also be designed to meet requirements of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) – a six-member sub regional grouping to which Cameroon belongs.
About the old system, Baya said it will be shut down on June 23 at home, and June 15 for all diplomatic missions abroad.
“This new system will not only make the Cameroon passport more secured, it will simplify and modernize the procedure for issuing the travel document. We therefore reassure citizens that the long queues always observed in Emi-Immigration offices will now be a thing of the past. Passport holders will no longer need to travel to Yaounde to speed up the production of their passports. There will no longer be room for corrupt practices…” the DGSN top official assured Cameroonians.
The unveiling of these details about the new biometric passport came just a day after President Paul Biya signed an ordinance increasing the fee for obtaining ordinary passports to XAF 110,000 (about US$205). Until now, the fee was XAF 75,000 (around US$140). No explanation has been given for this increase.