ANSI - American National Standards Institute
 Print this article  Previous Next 

Testing of Electronic Passports Begins in Support of Homeland Security Measures


New York, Jan 17, 2006

As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) program, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore have initiated a live test of electronic passports at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Changi Airport in Singapore, and Sydney Airport in Australia. The test, which began January 15, 2006, and will run through April 15, 2006, aims to assess the operational impact of the equipment used to verify biometric information embedded in the e-passports. Participants in the live test include U.S. diplomatic and official e-passport holders, Singapore Airlines crew and officials holding trial e-passports, and citizens of Australia and New Zealand who have been issued the electronic travel document.

Equipped with contactless integrated circuits that store biographic and biometric information, e-passports will support the identification and verification of individuals entering and exiting the United States. Biometric applications allow for the encoding of a unique physical characteristic of an individual such as a fingerprint into a biometric identifier that can be verified by a machine.

“This test provides an important opportunity to work with our international partners to further the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to put in place an e-passport reader solution by the fall of this year,” said Jim Williams, director of US VISIT, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program.

Designed to reduce fraud, identity theft, and terrorism, electronic passports are one of several steps taken by the DHS to strengthen document integrity under US-VISIT’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and will become mandatory beginning October 26, 2006. Twenty-seven countries currently participate in the VWP, which allows non-immigrant visitors to visit the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. DHS measures that already have been put into effect require travelers from VWP countries to present machine-readable passports, and VWP countries to include a digital photograph on all new passports.

“The electronic passport is the path to secure and streamlined travel among Visa Waiver Program countries,” said DHS secretary Michael Chertoff in a 2005 statement. “These passport requirements will maintain and strengthen the integrity of the Visa Waiver Program in a manner consistent with congressional intent and international standards.”

The live test is being performed to help countries develop and implement electronic passports that are compliant with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency which sets standards and regulations necessary to enable safe and efficient international civil aviation. An ICAE technical advisory group has developed specifications for electronic passports, covering the use and application of contactless integrated circuits in machine readable travel documents. The concerns of global interoperability, technical reliability, practicality, and durability were the key considerations addressed in the development of the standards.

A previous live test of e-passport technology, which began in June 2005 and ran throughout the summer, was conducted at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Sydney Airport. The results of the first test indicated that additional testing would be beneficial to the development of a fully operational system.

A top priority of DHS, the US-VISIT program aims to enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors, facilitate legitimate travel and trade, ensure the integrity of the immigration system, and protect personal privacy. According to DHS, more than 46 million visitors to the United States have been processed through the US-VISIT program, and more than 990 criminals or immigration violators have been intercepted through the use of biometric technology.

For more information about the US-VISIT program, go to www.dhs.gov/us-visit.


See related story: DHS Implements US-VISIT Program with Biometric Technology

AN INTRODUCTION TO STANDARDS: WHY, WHERE AND HOW ARE THEY DEVELOPED?