The Government of Saint Lucia, as of next year, will move from issuing to its citizens Machine Readable Passports and instead issue electronic passports or what is commonly known as ePassports, which are said to be internationally recognised as a more secure form of travel document.
More than 140 nations are already issuing electronic passports containing a microchip which includes information on the traveler as well as a digital certificate. The certificate can be verified within the in-ternational border control community thus ensuring the ePassport was issued by a recognized gov-ernment.
Partnering with Saint Lucia to produce the epassport is the Canadian Banknote Company (CBN), which has been a partner since 2006, when it first began to supply government with Machine Readable Pass-ports and a Passport Issuing System.
“We look forward to delivering a newly designed St. Lucian ePassport that will contain world leading security features as well as a design that will represent the people, places and culture of St. Lucia,” noted CBN’s Michael Walker this week.
Saint Lucia is late in moving into the technology that deals with ePassports, however it plans to catch up as quickly as possible.
But what makes the ePassport different and more secure?
According to Walker it is the information that the ePassport contains which can be verified physically through inspection. Further, with the passport electronically encoded within the microchip it allows an electronic form of authentication to be verified at international borders.
“And so the encryption involved in the e-chip that’s within the passport is highly secure and less sus-ceptible to fraud as opposed to fraudulent attacks that are physically done on the data page itself,” Walker said.
Would that increase the cost of the passports?
Lucius Lake of the Immigration Department said that the cost to Saint Lucians of the ePassport will in-crease because of the security features it contains and the e-chip embedded in it.
The present costs of a machine Readable Passport is $80.00 which one gets within 14 working days after a correctly completed application is handed in or $130 if the application is to be expedited. That is done within five working days.
The change in cost will it be high or will it be a small increase?
“We’re still working with that part of it because it’s a costly venture going down that road so it will be a decision that the government will take as to how much they’re going to absorb in the new cost of the e-passport going forward,” Lake said.
In terms of the time period in which one can obtain a passport would that be increased as well or re-duced?
“That is still going to be worked on because the entire process is being changed. Everything you do now for the Machine Readable Passport some of it will be kept on but there will be changes as we go along the way,” said Lake.
Walker admits that there will be a number of new security features in the ePassport as well as the en-coded data in the microchip hence it will take a slightly longer time to issue one.
“(There) will be a complete revamp of the current structure. A lot of process efficiencies will be gained but also there’s a lot more involved in the process that will be part of the onboarding of this new sys-tem and the time frames in terms of the length of time required to issue (one) that will be assessed in future and the passport office will be able to answer those questions,” Walker told reporters.