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Guernsey Launches Biometric Passport Scheme

by Jason Gorringe,, London

09 October 2006

The Guernsey Passport Office started to issue the first batch of new biometric e-passports last week, the jurisdiction's authorities have announced.

The other Crown Dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man along with Gibraltar will start issuing the new passports in the near future.

Customs and Immigration Service Chief Officer Rob Prow explained the reasoning behind the move:

"Biometrics are unique, measurable, physical characteristics which are used to recognise the identity or verify the claimed identity of an individual. The States Home Department has invested significant money so as to ensure that passports issued in the Bailiwick meet international standards and that Island residents can feel confident when travelling throughout the world. The new passports are being introduced to help prevent identity and passport fraud."

Externally, the new biometric passports look similar to the current digital book, but there is a logo on the front cover indicating that the book contains biometric information. Internally there are numerous security features including a chip and antenna, along with pages including complex watermarks. The chip stores the passport holder's photo and the personal details printed elsewhere in the passport.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation, which sets international standards, nominated facial recognition as the primary biometric and this is now being used in the new passports issued in the Bailiwick, along with many other passports issued both in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

In order to take advantage of the United States Visa Waiver Programme, the US authorities require that any passport issued on or after 26 October 2006, must contain biometric information. The Bailiwick and other Crown Dependencies have met this deadline.

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