The e-passport will soon make its debut in Saint Lucia.
According to Catalin Tudor, Project Manager for Canadian Bank Note (CBN), the e-passport, which will eventually replace machine-readable passports, will likely be introduced on July 25.
Saint Lucia has been a partner of CBN since 2006 when it first began to supply the government with machine-readable passports and a passport issuing system. Now CBN is providing Saint Lucia with the “next generation of travel documents” which will decidedly change individuals’ travel experience.
“For now I don’t see any major hiccups so I think (we will be able to) go live on the 25th, so on the 25th we will be able to provide new passports to Saint Lucian citizens. We are preparing the new passport office with new state of the art equipment, new workstations, new monitors, new cameras, new printers, new scanners; everything will be new. The workflow will be almost the same, but I think the speed will increase; it will be an improved system altogether,” Tudor said on a Government Information Programme Monday night.
“Training of staff will commence next week. We have trainers from the Canadian Bank Note coming on island (who) will train all the operators on how to handle the new application,” Tudor added.
The “new generation” of passports notably reduces the risks of tampering and identity fraud by adding a digital record of the information contained on the printing area on the microchip. Also, the biological information is specific to the data loaded in the microchip and cannot be tampered with, edited or modified once programmed, the project manager stated.
“What the chip has, and it’s a new thing, is a certificate generated only by the Government of Saint Lucia and it will be read and acknowledged in the time of the border passing. It can be used with e-gates so if you go to an airport that has that it will read your data, a camera will see that it’s you and you will pass through the e-gate more quickly,” Tudor said.
Tudor noted that Saint Lucian citizens travelling to the European Union (EU) can benefit greatly, given that the EU has agreed to extend their visa programme to include a number of Caribbean nations. And according to him, the e-passport can also reduce the risk of other countries imposing visa requirements on travellers.
The departure from machine readable passports was imminent, Immigration Expert Lucious Lake indicated.
Lake, who works with the Saint Lucia Border Control Agency, and who was also on the programme stated that “we had to move forward.”
“There had been numerous upgrades where that system (machine readable passports) is concerned. At this point in time, we have had as many upgrades as the system permits. Canadian Bank Note has been a partner we have worked with. They can no longer support the issuance or production or printing of the machine-readable passports we have now so the gradual move of progressing is into the new e-passport,” he said.
Further, he noted, “we are (one) of 136 countries worldwide who have moved on to the e-passport, it’s not just Saint Lucia. Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis… Belize should be coming on sometime this year and Jamaica sometime in 2023, so we are the latest kids on the block. We have all the latest technology where it pertains to e-passports coming into Saint Lucia.”
Whilst some individuals are concerned about the validity of their machine-readable passport which is not yet due for renewal, Lake stated that there is no need for these individuals to get flustered.
“The introduction of the new e-passport does not mean that your present machine readable passport is not valid. Persons who have had passports issued in the last few weeks or even on Friday of last week, your passport is valid until its expiration date taking into account some countries require six months in advance. This is not a call to ask persons to come and change their present valid machine-readable passports to get the new e-passports,” he said.
“When that present machine-readable passport expires you will not be issued a machine readable passport. You have no choice but to migrate to the new e-passport, so this is actually phasing out of the machine readable passport and going into the new e-passport. Don’t come and change your passport now. Travel with it, it is still valid (and) six months before it expires get a new one,” Lake stated, adding that “the difference with this one will be the ability to submit your passport application forms online.”