x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Passport chips 'will save time at border controls'

But critics fear the biometric documents could be hacked.

ABU DHABI // All Emiratis applying for a new passport from this week will find it includes something extra - a tiny biometric chip containing their personal details, fingerprints and picture.

The documents - the first 117 of which were issued during a trial last week - should help cut forgery and speed holders' passage through foreign border controls.

The chips will be embedded in the back cover of the 62-page passport, behind an architectural sketch of the entrance to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

It will include personal information including fingerprints, signature and a photograph of the owner, in accordance with global standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

There have been concerns elsewhere that biometric chips could be hacked into, with the information on them accessed or changed, unless they are properly secured.

But Maj Gen Nasser Al Minhali, the acting assistant undersecretary for the Abu Dhabi Department of Naturalisation, Residency and Ports Affairs, said yesterday that the chips being used for the new passports were "extremely difficult to hack in to".

"The new passports will ease passport control procedures in all countries around the world," he said. "We have kept in mind all past problems with the old passports and have addressed them."

The ICAO has set a 2015 deadline for all passports to be machine readable but Maj Gen Al Minhali said he hoped all Emiratis would have the new documents before that.

The passports will take 24 hours to issue at one of 33 offices across the country.

The Ministry of Interior had said that the biometric passports would be introduced by the end of 2010.