Confronted with a US requirement for travellers into the country to have a digitised version of their photograph for cross-checking, Passports (NZ), part of the Department of Internal Affairs, has moved quickly. It expects to have the required microchip embedded in new passports by the deadline date of October 26 this year.
The chip, able to store 32KB of data, could be embedded in the cover of the passport or in a plastic container embedded in a dedicated page, says passport office manager David Philp. The information will be scanned at US ports and compared with the regular passport photograph.
US authorities have imposed the requirement — part of the Homeland Security Initiative — on all countries with a visa waiver scheme for short-term travel (less than 90 days) to the US. Passports issued before October 26 will not have to be equipped with a chip, says Passports (NZ) spokesman Tony Wallace.
Development and embedding of the chip is being done as an internal project of the organisation, which is currently debating whether and how much to compress the photographic data to get it into the 32KB space. Most of the appropriate standards have already been defined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and US authorities to allow the chip to be scanned using various technologies.