Monday, April 12, 2010

Behold! Le ePassport

An essential task for me to accomplish was to have my passport updated, name and status to be exact. To be able to complete the task at hand, I had to learn how to get my passport renewed on my own. At the same time, it was my time to get a hold of that ePassport and taste its technology (but the actual taste of it officially commences once there‘s an ACTUAL travel itinerary materializing before my very eyes).

The ePassport is essentially the same as a Machine Readable Passport (MRP), but with an added integrated circuit or “chip” embedded in one of its pages. This chip contains the passport holder’s biometrics and other data (i.e.: unique chip ID number, digital signature, passport number, etc), essential in verifying the authenticity of the owner. 

The Philippine ePassport allows information stored on the chip to be verified with the information visually displayed on the passport. The chip technology allows the information stored in the ePassport to be read by special chip readers at a close range.

The universal symbol embedded on international ePassports

It uses contactless microchip technology that allows the information stored on the chip to be read by special chip readers at a close distance.

It contains an integrated photograph of the holder, a digitized secondary photo, and an electronic print of the holder’s signature, and has invisible digital watermarks readable only under UV light. The passport photo is actually made up of microletters readable by a special decoding lens. Cool!

It contains overt and hidden security features such as Invisible Personal Information (IPI), letterscreen, microprinting, and UV reactive ink, among others.

Now take that, fraudsters!

Using the ePassport avoids passport reproduction and tampering as its database is enhanced with Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) that guard against multiple passport issuances to the same person and enhances imposter detection. This is why your photograph will be personally taken, and digital signature obtained at the consular services. 

A major advantage of using ePassport is that it facilitates fast clearance of travelers at immigration checks. Among the benefits gain of an ePassport are the use of automated border clearance or ‘eGates,’ automated issuance of boarding passes, and faster travel arrangements with airlines.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) started issuance in mid 2009 on a limited quantity. But now, it's in full swing! Do note though, that you have make a reservation or appointment first before marching to their new location. You will just have to be EXTRA patient when renewing your passport as it may take weeks to have the entire process done due to the summer peak season for traveling, and there could be intermittent technical failures along the way. You can actually read my semi-detailed account here.

Can’t wait for my first use! 

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