Soon, Indian travelers will get microchip-based e-passports. Sanjay Bhattacharya, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, took to Twitter to inform them that India would get e-passports with secure biometric data.

He has noted that the e-passport would be in accordance with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The e-passports would contain microchips that would have important security data stored in them. India currently issues only printed passports to users.

In his tweet, Bhattacharya described the features of the e-passport. He revealed that the passport would contain secure biometric data, it would ensure smooth passage through immigration posts globally, and the e-passport would be ICAO compliant. It will be manufactured at India Security Press, Nashik.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had noted that the ministry is in talks with the ‘India Security Press’ regarding microchips. “We propose to pursue the manufacture of e-passports on priority so that a new passport booklet with advanced security features can be rolled out in the near future," Jaishanker had said.

TCS, which had bagged the second contract to run the Passport Seva Program, also announced that it would introduce the e-passport. "We will bring in the technology (for e-passport), but you know the sovereign functions like granting or printing of the passport booklet will continue with the government," Tej Bhatla, business unit head for public sector at TCS, told media.

What is an e-passport?
An e-passport or a digital passport serves the same purpose as a traditional passport. However, the e-passport comes with an electronic chip that carries the same information as the printed passport. The microchip carries information such as the passport holder's name, date of birth, and other details. The e-passport, once introduced, would eliminate the need to stand in long queues in front of the immigration counter. The e-passport could be scanned in minutes as opposed to the physical verification at the immigration counter. It will also help curb the fake passport business as the scammers would find it hard to fiddle with the data recorded on the microchip.

The concept of an e-passport is not something unheard of. Over 120 countries, including the US, UK, and Germany already have biometric e-passport systems.

How will an e-passport function?
The e-passport will come with an inlaid chip that will carry all the personal information of the passport holder. The chip which will be placed on the back of the passport will come with 64 kilobytes of storage space and an embedded rectangular antenna. The chip will contain data from up to 30 international trips initially. However, in the later stage, the chip is also expected to store the picture of the passport holder along with biometric data such as fingerprints. If anybody tries to tamper with the chip, it will result in failure of passport authentication, as per reports.
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