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Bulgaria rolls out new biometric ID cards

Bulgaria rolls out new biometric ID cards

Bulgaria is hoping to make it easier for its citizens to travel to the European Union with a new identity card. As of Monday, Bulgarians will be able to obtain a new biometric ID that contains fingerprint and facial data.

The ID card allows its owners to travel to EU countries by using Automated Border Crossing (ABC) systems or eGates that authenticate electronic machine-readable travel documents (e-MRTD), the country’s Interior Ministry announced last week.

Bulgaria partially joined the Schengen area alongside Romania in March 2024. While the countries have lifted controls at air and sea borders, land crossings are still excluded as EU member states such as Austria say Romania and Bulgaria need to do more to prevent irregular migration.

The card’s chip was produced by a consortium including Mühlbauer which won a 10-year contract valued at US$134 million.

At a later stage, citizens will be able to use an electronic identity certificate for accessing online electronic services and systems, Bulgarian newspaper Sloboden Pecat reports. Last year,  Bulgaria made Evrotrust’s eID scheme the country’s official digital identity program. Its digital government initiative recently received a boost after launching a public services platform called the Single Portal for Electronic Services (SPES).

Plans are also underway to introduce new passports in the coming year which include enhanced security.

The new ID cards are not obligatory. Older cards will be valid until August 2nd, 2031, or until their expiry date. Bulgaria is planning to introduce legislative changes that will align its ID document validity with EU rules. This means that the country will no longer be able to issue ID documents with no expiry date as European regulations do not permit permanent ID cards.

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