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Date: 10/12/2008

UAE to issue e-passport for Emiratis shortly

UAE Government will start issuing passports embedded with microchips containing biometric data to Emiratis in a little over 12 months. The so-called e-passport, which will be valid for five years, will be embedded with a chip that stores personal details, a photograph and fingerprints. The chips will not include an iris scan but would have the capacity for such data should it be required in the future.

The information on the chips can be scanned and verified at airports, other ports and border posts. The chips are also equipped with a protection and encryption system intended to prevent the stored information from being forged or altered.

The new passport is expected to speed up passage through ports in the US and EU, and could help smooth visa applications. The UAE has been discussing plans to issue e-passports to Emiratis since 2005. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, had instructed officials to seek the services of an international consultancy firm to study and develop the e-passport. More than 20 companies have bid for the project; those that are shortlisted are to submit proposals that will include details on how the documents will be issued.