Department of State begins issuance of an Electronic Passport

WASHINGTON, DC – Department of State is phasing-in the issuance of the new Electronic Passport (e-passport) to better facilitate international travel for U.S. citizens and enhance border security.

On December 30, 2005, the Department began limited production of the first-ever U.S. e-passports.

As part of a pilot program, we are now issuing diplomatic passports and soon official passports in electronic format. The e-passport integrates the latest concepts in electronic document protection and readability.

The new passport combines face recognition and contactless chip technology.

The chip, embedded in the cover of the passport, holds the same information that is printed in the passport: name, date of birth, gender, place of birth, dates of passport issuance and expiration, passport number, and photo image of the bearer. Previously issued passports without electronic chips will remain valid until their expiration dates.

To address privacy concerns, the Department has incorporated an anti-skimming device in the passport’s front cover. The Department also included basic access control (BAC) technology to prevent skimming and eavesdropping. The anti-skimming device and the BAC technology, when taken together, will mitigate unauthorized reading of the e-passport.

The Department plans to issue the first full validity U.S. e-passports to the American public later this year and plans to issue e-passports at all domestic passport agencies by the end of 2006.

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