E-passports to roll out this year: what is it and how will it work?

To make international travel easier and passport holders’ data secure, the government of India is working on launching e-passports very soon. The government announced the concept of e-passports last year but now the external affairs minister S Jaishankar reaffirmed on Friday that e-passports will start rolling out by the end of this year. Jaishankar said that with e-passports, the government of India aims to improve “citizen experience and public delivery”.

“It gives me great pleasure to join all our Passport Issuing Authorities in India and abroad on the occasion of the Passport Seva Divas 2022,” Jaishankar said. “As we commemorate the Passport Seva Divas on 24th June this year, we continue our commitment to deliver the next level of citizen experience,” he further added.

Notably, a chip-based e-passport isn’t a new concept. More than 100 countries already offer e-passports. Countries including Ireland, Zimbabwe, Malawai, India’s neighbours Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, among others have rolled out e-passports, states data issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

So, what is an e-passport exactly and how will it make travel easier and secure? Here’s everything about the soon-to-release chip-based e-passports.

What is an e-passport?

While e-passports will do the same work as a normal physical passport, they will come with a small electronic chip inside, somewhat similar to the driver’s license. The chip used inside the passport will store all crucial details of the passport holder. This information includes — name, date of birth, address, and other things.

These e-passports will use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip and have an antenna embedded as an inlay in the back cover. This chip will enable officials to verify a traveller’s details quickly. The idea behind issuing an e-passport is to reduce the circulation of fake passports and enhance security and reduce duplication and data tampering.

Who will make e-passports?

Tech giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is working on e-passports and will roll out the service by the end of this year, as already confirmed by the government of India. As per reports, TCS is said to set up a new command and control centre with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and a new data centre to support all the backend requirements of the project.

When will e-passports roll out?

As the external minister confirmed, e-passports can become a reality by the end of this year. The specific date has been announced yet.

Will existing passport holders’ need to upgrade?

Neither has the government announced if all the current passport holders will need to upgrade to an e-passport or wait till the existing one expires to apply for an e-passport. The application process for an e-passport is expected to be the same as the physical passport. New applicants though will straightaway get e-passports once the service is officially available in the country.

How will e-passports look like?

E-passports in India (similar to other countries) will look just like a normal passport with a chip installed in it. So, you will, either way, need to carry a physical passport while traveling international.

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