ETAs and biometric gates could replace passport desks as digitization expands
The use of passports and visas to cross international borders is about to change, UK Border Force Director General Phil Douglas said at the recent Airlines 2023 conference, with “passport desks falling away” within two to three years. Douglas says the UK is planning to procure next-generation e-gates to more widely adopt biometrics as it transitions to Electronic Travel Authorisation, TTG reports.
“ETAs will enable us to make decisions about admission much earlier,” he said, according to the report. “You can see the days of the passport and visa falling away as new ways of fixing ID come in. We are already talking to partners about how that might happen.”
He also noted that biometric e-gates are more effective for catching imposters than manual checks.
While airports and governments advance towards this future state of affairs, Nigeria is attempting to ease passport applications, Syria and Russia are raising their prices, and the Seychelles is expanding issuance to diplomatic posts abroad.
Nigeria to fully digitize application process for biometric passports
By February next year, those eligible for Nigerian passports will be able to apply for the travel document in a process that will be entirely digital.
The country’s Interior Minister Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo gave this assurance recently during a Diaspora Invest Summit meant for Nigerians living abroad.
As reported by Tekedia, the new digital application system is part of government’s efforts to streamline the way citizens apply for an obtain the travel document.
The imminent system, according to Tunji-Ojo, will cut the need for physical presence at passport issuance centers not only in Nigeria but also at the country’s diplomatic missions abroad.
The official hinted that this new system will first be rolled out in the UK, where Nigeria’s High Commission has suffered passport issuance halts in the past.
Until recently, Nigerians found it difficult obtaining passports. In September, the Interior Minister directed emergency measures which led to the clearance of an over 200,000 passport backlog.
Over the weekend, meanwhile, the passport issuance system of Nigeria at its U.S. embassy suffered glitches for hours, disrupting a biometric capture program for some applicants.
According to Enews, applicants whose biometrics were supposed to have been captured between November 13 and 16, will now be attended to between November 20 and 22.
The article notes that ICT teams from the embassy worked tirelessly to restore the system over the weekend. The outage was partly linked to an internet disruption at the embassy, the outlet narrates.
Syria and Russia raise passport fees
In passport related developments, Syria and Russia are reported to have hiked fees for issuing passports.
In the case of Syria, the fee increase was done last month via a law issued on October 29, and it comes at a time when the country’s biometric passport is said to be rejected abroad, according to Syria Report.
For the case of Rusia, the passport price increase is contained in a bill which has scaled a third and last reading in the State Duma, the country’s lower parliamentary chamber, Meduza reports.
Once the bill becomes law, adults will have to pay 6,000 rubles (US$67) for a biometric passport, up from 5,000 rubles ($55). For children below 14, the fee will be 3,000 ($33), up from 2,500 rubles ($28).
In both Syria and Russia, increasing revenue for the government has been cited as main reason for the passport price hike.
There has been a jump in the number of Russians applying for passports since the start of the war with Ukraine.
Seychelles passports now issued abroad
The Seychelles government has announced that it will soon begin issuing biometric passports at its diplomatic missions abroad, beginning with Paris.
The Minister for Internal Affairs and Immigration Errol Fonseka gave the assurance as he responded to question from lawmakers last week while defending the budgetary allocation for his ministry, writes Seychelles News Agency.
Fonseka said Seychellois abroad will no longer need to travel back to the country to apply for new passports or renew old ones, thanks to the decision by the government to dematerialize the process.
IN Groupe is the supplier of biometric passports for the Seychelles.