With just the swipe of a card, T&T citizens can be allowed to enter a foreign country. This will happen when the Government moves to introduce the e-passport, or digital passport, by 2017. Making the statement yesterday was National Security Minister Jack Warner at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port-of-Spain.
He was speaking at the launch of a three-day sub-regional workshop on capacity-building in travel-document security and identity management, which brought together various Caribbean countries. He said since T&T introduced the integrated border-management system in 2007, there has been no reported cases of tampering with the machine-readable passport.
"The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has issued a mandate to all countries to fully operationalise e-passport use by 2017. "I am advised T&T should get an initial pilot roll-out by 2015. This pilot roll-out can be done, just as some other countries have, with diplomats and government officials first," Warner said.
While using e-passports could increase the efficiency both for the Government and citizens, there were other factors which the Government must consider, he pointed out. The e-passport, he added, would eliminate the process of individuals having to join a line to appear before an immigration officer.
"The individual simply swipes his e-passport and looks into the kiosk, which reads the bio-data in the e-passport chip and confirms the identity of the person, using facial-recognition technology," Warner said. However, he said, it also would mean there would be no need for so many immigration officers.
They would therefore have to be deployed elsewhere to perform other tasks related to border security, Warner said. Cost was another factor which the Government had to take into account. "There are challenges to the e-passport roll-out. There is a lengthy certification process and we will have to look at the spatial requirements as well as human resource issues, such as retraining, re-tooling and skill enhancement.
Passport changes for better border control
"We also have to consider that the base book for an e-passport costs five times as much as a base book for a machine-readable passport. Therefore the cost of an e-passport would be higher," Warner said.
What is e-passport
A biometric passport, also known as an e-passport or a digital passport, is a combined paper and electronic passport that contains biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers. 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.
The passport's critical information is both printed on the data page of the passport 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.