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Statement by MEA Official Spokesperson on National Launch of e-passport

New Delhi 
June 25, 2008 

The President launched the issuance of e-passports, also known as bio-metric passports, at a ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan today.

Minister of External Affairs Shri Pranab Mukherjee presented the first e-diplomatic passport to the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, at the ceremony. He also presented an e-diplomatic passport to Dr. Devisingh Shekhawat.

The External Affairs Minister presented e-diplomatic passports, subsequently, to the Vice President Shri Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Smt. Salma Ansari at a function at 6 Maulana Azad Road.

He also presented an e-diplomatic passport to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh at a function in Prime Minister’s office, South Block.

With the National Launch today, India has become the first major developing country to issue e-passports. 41 countries issue e-passports now, most of them having commenced the issuance of such passports in the last two years.

From today, the Ministry of External Affairs will be issuing e-passports in the diplomatic category. Issue of e-passports in the official passport category will commence next month. The e-passports will be issued to all fresh applicants and to those who apply for reissue.

The Ministry of External Affairs has drawn up a programme for the full roll out of e-passports in the ordinary passport category by September, 2009.

The e-passports of India conform to the specifications laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which is the competent international body to recommend specifications for all travel documents.

The e-passports contain an electronic contactless chip embedded in the passport booklet. The cover page of the passport has an ICAO approved special logo indicating that it is an e-passport. The chip in the e-passport booklets to be issued by the Ministry of External Affairs in the diplomatic and official passport categories will contain data such as facial bio-metrics, signature, name, nationality, date of birth etc. of the passport holder. Specified bio-metric features such as finger-prints of the holder are also proposed to be added to this data when e-passports are issued in the ordinary passport category.

The Indian e-passports will have the necessary technical features to prevent access to the data stored in the chip by unauthorized persons and to enable authentication of the bonafides of our e-passports by immigration authorities anywhere in the world.

The e-passports offer significant advantages. The Indian citizens will be in a position to move more easily and faster through the border control points that have e-passport reading facilities. These passports also provide higher level of protection against fraudulent misuse and tampering. Authenticity of the e-passports can be easily verified by the immigration authorities. e-passports will also be useful in preventing holding of multiple passports.

The Indian e-passports have been designed and developed by the Government using its own resources. The National Informatics Center (NIC) provided the entire technical expertise and support for the project with the assistance of IIT, Kanpur. It has been ensured that the software of our e-passports is compatible with other important documents such as the National ID card and Driving License. The India Security Press, Nasik is also an important partner of the Ministry of External Affairs in the e-passport project. They will produce all the blank e-passport booklets.

The Central Passport Organization of the Ministry of External Affairs issued 50 lakh passports in 2007 through its 34 Passport Offices all over the country, compared to about 44 lakh passports in 2006 and 36 lakh passports in 2005. To cater to the growing demand of passports of about 18% per annum, the Ministry of External Affairs has already initiated the Passport Seva Project for introducing better and latest IT solutions, further simplification of procedures and reducing paper work to the barest minimum, with a view to maximizing the comfort levels of passport applicants and achieving the best international standards. The project, which is expected to be implemented in a time frame of 19 months, will result in the issuance of passports within three days and, in cases which require prior police verification, within three days after the completion of the verification process.