India intends to begin issuing e-passports in 2022

Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Thursday, April 7 said that the government is planning to issue e-passports to its citizens, starting in 2022-23.

Mr Muraleedharan’s remarks came in Rajya Sabha in reply to a question on the government’s plans for the issuance of e-passports in the calendar year 2022 and its details.

The MoS informed that the e-passport will be a combined paper and electronic passport, with an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip and antenna embedded as an inlay in the back cover.

“The passport’s critical information will be printed on its data page as well as stored in the chip. The characteristics of the document and the chip are specified in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) document 9303.

The e-passports will be produced by the India Security Press, Nashik, which has issued letters of intent for the procurement of 4.5 crore ICAO-compliant electronic chips along with its operating system.”

V Muraleedharan, Union Minister of State for External Affairs

Mr Muraleedharan further said that the Ministry of External Affairs has entrusted the National Informatics Centre (NIC) with the technical responsibilities in the context of the issuance of e-passports.

The MoS informed the upper house that sample e-passports are currently being tested and the full-scale manufacture and issue will commence with the completion of the technical eco-system and infrastructure.

India intends to begin issuing e-passports in 2022

On February 2, during the Budget session, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government will issue e-passports, which will use Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) and biometrics to verify the identity of the person, in the financial year 2022-23.

The e-passports will ensure smooth passage at immigration posts globally. As part of the advanced security features, the personal data of applicants would be digitally signed and encoded in the chip to be embedded in the passport.

What are e-passports?

A biometric passport (also known as an e-passport or a digital passport) is a traditional passport that has an embedded electronic microprocessor chip that contains biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of the passport holder.

It uses contactless smart card technology, including a microprocessor chip (computer chip) and antenna (for both power to the chip and communication) embedded in the front or back cover, or centre page, of the passport.

As of mid-2019, 150 counties are using e-passports

The passport’s critical information is printed on the data page of the passport, repeated on the machine-readable lines and stored in the chip. Public key infrastructure (PKI) is used to authenticate the data stored electronically in the passport chip, making it expensive and difficult to forge when all security mechanisms are fully and correctly implemented.

Many countries are moving towards issuing biometric passports to their citizens. Malaysia was the first country to issue biometric passports in 1998. In December 2008, 60 countries were issuing such passports, which increased to over 150 by mid-2019.

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