E-passport service delayed

Introduction of ultramodern digital passports, also known as electronic passports (e-passport) is being delayed due to complication of agreement with German firm Veridos, slow pace of e-gate installation and finalization of passport fee. Although, people from 119 countries in the world are currently using e-passport, no concerned officials could tell the actual time when Bangladeshi citizens may get e-passports.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has said that the distribution and production of e-passports will be inaugurated when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returns from her treatment. The work to bring the latest e-passport to everyone is underway. About 2,60,000 people have received Machine Readable Passports (MRPs).

In this regard, Brigadier General Saidur Rahman Khan, director of Introduction of e-Passport, and Automated Border Control Management Project said, “Although the e-passport was supposed to be distributed from July, the time for formal opening has delayed. We are now completing last-moment tasks. “We have sent a proposal to the finance ministry regarding the e-passport. We did note get any final decision in this regard”, he said.

According to passport department, they have proposed at least Tk 6,000 for an e-passport with 10 years validity. Any citizen will get the e-passport within 21 working days if they pay Tk 6,000, according to their proposal. Besides, the department has proposed Tk 12,000 as fee for getting passports within seven days under Express Delivery service, and Tk 15,000 for Super Express Delivery.

Officials said that the e-passport will have an embedded electronic microprocessor chip, which will contain biometric information used to authenticate the identity of the bearer. Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP) sources said e-passports will have 38 types of security features. Demographic information, fingerprints, photo of cornea and digital signature will be collected and preserved in the government server as part of the e-passport scheme.

To make e-passport activities efficient, it is needed to set-up automatic border control management or electronic gate (e-gate). 50 e-gates are to be installed in total but the work has not yet finished in three international airports and two land-ports. Police Super (Immigration) of Special Branch of Police Shahriar Alam said, “The work to set-up two new e-gates in the airport is going on. However, the policy was not created for e-passport till now and we did not get any instruction to control fake passport and visa holders and blacklisted persons.”

Once the e-passport is launched, the immigration process will be easier for the people, the sources said, adding that the passengers could not stand in queue as the e-gate will be open automatically for the people having verified and valid information. In July 2018, the government signed an agreement of a project with German firm Veridos GmbH to promote Bangladesh into the e-passport era, which was expected to begin in December the same year.

Under the project, worth around Tk 4,636 crore, some 2.8 crore e-passport booklets were expected to be produced in the country. However, authorities of Veridos rescheduled the deadline to July this year, when it was supposed to introduce e-passports on a pilot basis. Now, the rescheduled deadline has also crossed.