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Biometric chip passports get priority in Israel, Pakistan and Russia

With further adoption in African nations, biometrics are set to become the global norm
Biometric chip passports get priority in Israel, Pakistan and Russia

International travel continues to be a major catalyst in the uptake of biometric travel IDs, with governments in the Middle East, Asia and Africa implementing ePassports for airport security, fraud prevention and access to public services.

Biometric ePassports to be mandatory in Pakistan, more convenient in Israel

Citing rising concerns about foreigners using forged passport documents for entry, Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) has updated its policy for border control at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to favor travelers using biometric passports.

Israel National News reports that, under the new policy, travelers without biometric passports will be required to meet with a PIBA supervisor on arrival to perform verification in person. In other words, the now-familiar convenience of using automated machines will not be an option for legacy passport holders, who will have to wait in traditional lineups for a face-to-face with customs officials.

The government of Pakistan is also embracing ePassports. Daily Pakistan reports that a system change from machine-readable passports to biometric passports with embedded electronic chips is imminent, with government officials targeting initial launch in 2024. The larger plan is to make the issuance of chip-enabled passports mandatory starting in 2027.

The move is being driven by interest in electronic passports’ enhanced biometric security features for identity verification (for example, facial recognition data) which make tampering and fraud much more difficult, and by the need for greater efficiency at border crossings, to expedite immigration processes and reduce tiresome lineups.

Pakistanis have endured recent delays in passport issuance due to a shortage of lamination paper.

Spike in issuance drives plans for biometric passports in Russia

Biometric passports are becoming the preferred digital ID option for authorities worldwide, and there are strong indications the technology will inevitably become standard. “As technology evolves, so too does the way governments deliver services to their citizens,” says an article in BNN Breaking, detailing the Russian government’s plan to transition to biometric identification for access to public services.

According to the piece, the Russian government, under the directive of Dmitry Grigorenko, deputy prime minister and chief of staff, has tasked the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Digital Development, and the JSC Center for Biometric Technologies with developing the service, which would allow citizens to access Multifunctional Public Service Centers (MFCs) using biometric ID instead of traditional passports.

Specifically, the system is to employ cameras for facial verification, with initial testing to begin next year. As in Israel and Pakistan, long wait times for travelers, fraud safeguards and enhanced border security are cited as reasons for the transition to biometric ID.

Numbers released in December by Moscow show a sharp uptick in issued international travel passports. The press service for the Russian Interior Ministry’s migration department says “the overall number of public services for issuing international travel passports has grown by 19.1 percent, from 4.1 million to 4.9 million. However, the number of public services for issuing international travel passports has increased by 108.4 percent for documents with a five-year validity period, from 1.4 million to 3 million.”

African countries among those adopting biometric passports, applications

Libya and Nigeria are also completing implementation of biometrics for passports and ID cards. According to the Libya Herald, the government in Tripoli says it will issue new biometric, machine readable passports and ID cards in a move to modernize the national ID system and eliminate manual data entry at various border ports.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government says its automated passport application system is almost ready. According to Punch, barring last-minute delays, within a week Nigerians will be able to complete all pre-biometric processes from home, including uploading photos and documents. Users will only have to visit in-person registration centers to supply fingerprint biometrics. The country also plans to install eGates at its international airports by February, so that, in the words of Minister of Interior Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, “Once you are a Nigerian coming to Nigeria, you have no business seeing an immigration officer except if you are a person of interest.”

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