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Passports and Entry Visas

Security concerns have heightened interest in the use of biometrics for e-gate/registered traveller programmes expediting the secure movement of pre-registered travellers through border points.

Annually, approximately 500 million people present themselves at one of the United States' 422 ports of entry seeking admission to the U.S. The United States is to soon begin issuing passports to its citizens that will contain a microchip with the holder's name, birth date and photo embedded in it. Officials say the new technology will render stolen passports worthless.

The Intelligence Reform law signed in December 2004 provides for increased use of fingerprints, iris scans, hand geometry or facial recognition to identify passengers.

The new law calls on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to establish technical systems and standards for such biometric identifiers in airport access control systems. By March 31, 2005 airports will be required of more thoroughly screening passengers and visitors.

In the area of transportation security, many methods are being employed. For example, facial recognition passports are intended to replace passports as they expire. They will come with embedded chips containing digitized versions of passport photos. They are intended to be machine-read and compared against databases of terrorists and criminals.

U.S. immigration agents now fingerprint and photograph visitors upon arrival from 27 countries whose citizens do not need visas to enter the United States. The requirement applies to travelers from some of America's closest allies, including Britain, Australia and Japan.

In 2004 the U.S. Congress pushed back the original October 2004 deadline for Visa Waiver countries to have a biometric passport program in place until October 2005. As a result, those 27 Visa Waiver countries, which includes major European allies along with Japan and Australia, are working on developing new passports that would contain contactless smart card chips to store biometric identification data as well as antennas so that the chips can communicate with readers via radio frequency.

The General Accounting Office estimates that the initial cost for incorporating biometrics into border security as mandated by the USA Patriot Act of 2001 and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 could cost nearly $12 billion in the United States alone.

The U.S. Government aims to begin issuing the world's most secure passport by the end of October this year. A chip embedded in the travel document will store information related to the passport holder. To ensure the most effective technology is selected, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) expanded the test phase by an additional round of contract awards. The GPO has requested that technology group Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), together with its partner Electronic Data Systems Corp (EDS), supply covers for the electronic passport incorporating an RFID inlay.

Giesecke & Devrient passport covers with integrated RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) inlay meet the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and others. The inlay consists of a substrate and a chip with an antenna, which serves as the RFID transponder. Via the antenna, the chip can communicate with a reader to display the stored information. The chip can also store biometric data - e.g. a facial image or fingerprint - which unmistakably identifies the holder and can be quickly and easily verified.

G&D is providing chip technology with 72 KB to store the information. A key component of the solution is G&D's STARCOS( 3.0 operating system, featuring optimum security and high-speed performance. This advanced operating system exceeds the ICAO's requirements with respect to secure storage and transfer of passport data.

The first electronic passports are to be issued to U.S. Government employees for testing in practical use at the end of the first quarter of 2005.

Canada Customs CANPASS Fast Track Process

CANPASS, used by Canada Customs, uses fingerscans to ease the flow of goods between the U.S. and Canada. Truck drivers have their fingerprints registered in order to pass through borders smoothly.

At major Canadian airports, members of CANPASS Air go to a kiosk where a digital camera captures an image of the eye. The system recognizes the iris as proof of the user' s identity and then "expedites… passage through Customs and Immigration."

The agency charges an annual fee of $50 for travellers who want faster customs service. The system is in place in Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto and Montreal, and is expected to arrive in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton in 2005.

Frequent travellers to the U.S. from Canada have the option of using the joint Canada-U.S. NEXUS fast-track program to verify their identify and get through customs more quickly. The NEXUS iris scanners are in place at many border crossings on land and, beginning in November 2004, at Vancouver International Airport.

Privium Smart Card with IrisCode

Enrolled passengers who wish to enter or exit the Netherlands are fast tracked into a separate immigration line where customized kiosks accept their Privium smart card. The passenger glances briefly into an iris-enabled video camera so that a one-to-one verification can be conducted between their "live" IrisCode and the one on the smart card.

Due to privacy laws, the Netherlands required a solution that would not have to rely on a central database. As a result, the Privium program was designed with a Schlumberger smart card - passengers who enroll in the system have their biometric and passport data stored on the smart card's chip.

US-VISIT Security Measures

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that foreign visitors departing from certain airports are required to follow check out procedures before departing on their flight. Visitors are asked to provide their two index fingerscans and hold for a photo as a part of a pilot program to test and evaluate an automatic biometric exit process.

US-VISIT processing involves the collection of two index fingerscans and a digital photograph. With the deployment of US-VISIT technology, a visitor is no longer required to fill out the Form I-94 by hand. Instead, the visitor's biographic information is entered electronically when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer scans the visitor's travel document.

The biometric data is used to match a visitor’s identity to the profile captured by the U.S. State Department at the time of Visa issue.

US-VISIT procedures apply to all visitors (with limited exemptions) entering the United States, regardless of country of origin or whether they are traveling on a visa. Most visitors experience US-VISIT's biometric procedures -- a digital, inkless fingerscan and digital photograph -- upon entry to the United States. Now, if they leave from an airport or seaport that has an exit capability they must check out.

The US-VISIT scheme has been raising concern in Europe because it was unilaterally imposed on international travelers to the US and requires the transfer of large amounts of personal information on travellers to the US, in contravention of Europe's data protection laws, as well as the provision of fingerprints and facial images when entering the US.

Visitors departing the United States will check out of the country at exit stations located within the airport. As with the process the visitors encounter upon entry at airports, their travel documents are read, their two index fingers will be scanned at the exit station, their digital picture will be taken, and they will receive a printed receipt that verifies that they have checked out.

US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports, 15 seaports and in the secondary inspection areas of the 50 busiest land ports of entry. By December 31, 2005, US VISIT entry procedures will be implemented in the secondary inspection areas of all remaining land ports of entry.

To date, more than 17.5 million foreign visitors have been processed through US-VISIT without adversely impacting wait times, and more than 407 criminals or immigration violators have been denied admission to the United States because of US-VISIT.

Malaysian Smartcard Travel Document

01/05 - Malaysians may travel to Singapore and Brunei without passports if negotiations between the three countries reach a consensus on the use of the Malaysian smartcard as a valid travel document.

Tourism Minister Leo Michael Toyad said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs are negotiating with the two countries for the acceptance of the smartcard as a valid travel document at the point of entry of both countries.

France's Biometric e-Visa Project

01/05 - The French biometric visa project, comprising electronic visa documents and a central database of visa applicants, is meant to help improve border control procedures and tackle illegal immigration.

The e-visa trial, foreseen by the new French law on immigration adopted in November 2003, was authorised by a decree published in November 2004. In seven French consulates abroad, visa applicants will have their 10 fingerprints scanned and their face digitally photographed.

The biometric data will be stored both in the visa document – containing an integrated circuit chip – and in a central database designed to track and identify illegal immigrants. In addition to biometric data, the chip will include information such as visa type, validity and issuer, as well as personal data such as name, birth date, sex and nationality of the holder.

The French e-visa pilot is based on an architecture similar to that of the proposed Europe-wide Visa Information System (VIS). In this respect, the pilot will capitalise on the experience gathered by France, which led a working group in charge of determining how to successfully and securely integrate a chip into the future European visas. The group concluded that collisions between several RFID chips in a same document would make current plans to include visa stickers containing RFID chips into passports “technically not possible”.

United Kingdom Scans Travelers for Biometrics

On 29/04/2003 the UK Home Office announced plans to strengthen its border control policy by using new technologies. Under the new plans, passports of airline passengers traveling to the UK will be screened upon departure with new hi-tech biometric scanners able to instantly identify passengers posing a security risk.

The devices will "read" passports and other documents and check details against information held on international law enforcement databases. They will immediately identify anyone who is a known immigration or security risk, as well as detect forged or stolen documents.

11/06 - Biometric UK passports were introduced this year, using facial mapping information stored on a microchip, and more than a million have already been issued.

Swedish e-Passports

At the time of application for a new Swedish passport, a photograph and a signature from the applicant are captured in a Speed-Identity photo station, which is placed adjacent to the officer handling the passport application. The photo station verifies that the quality of the captured photo is in line with international standards, and that the photograph is suitable for verification by facial recognition software.

Identix Incorporated has been selected to deliver the facial enrollment solution for the new Swedish biometric passports to the Swedish National Police Board in Sweden.

Danish Electronic Passports

In October 2006 Denmark rolled out its new electronic passport scheme and hopes to have 250,000 passports issued by the end of the year and it is planned that approximately 800,000 will be issued every year.

Setbacks to smart card passport systems - article

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