10 years after the revised recommended practices by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Canada will finally be issuing new electronic Canadian passports (or ePassports), in the spring of 2013.
The new ePassport will feature an electronic chip—embedded in the back cover of the book—which enhances the passport’s current safety mechanisms. The chip stores the same personal information as seen on page 2 of the passport (except for the holder’s signature), the holder’s photo, and a country-specific digital signature that proves that the passport was issued by the Government of Canada.
In terms of the application process, there will not be any significant changes, except for the added option for adult applicants to have either a 5- or 10-year ePassport (this applies to both first-time applications and renewals). Children ePassports will be automatically issued for a maximum of 5 years.
To compensate for the increase in operational costs due to the enhanced technology, Passport Canada will be issuing new fees once the 10-year ePassport is adopted in the spring of 2013. In compliance with the User Fee Act, consultations were undertaken with the Canadian public and stakeholders, between April 2010 and May 2010. Passport Canada’s fee-for-service proposal was tabled in Parliament and revised by two parliamentary committees. The proposal was approved with no changes in March 2012.
Canada won’t be the first country to implement this new technology, however. Approximately 95 countries, including the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, have already adopted ePassports for several years with no reported problems.
Finally, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird unveiled, today, the new design of the ePassports. Apart from the added chip feature, the passports will also pay homage to Canadian history; each page of the document will contain watermarks depicting iconic images, including: an illustration of the Vimy Ridge First World War memorial in France; the scene of the nation-building First World War battle; memorable sports scenes and; the French explorer Samuel de Champlain.
Key advantages of ePassport
- Reduced risk of tampering and identity fraud, due to the increase in layers of identity checks within the passport, all of which must match.
- The chip stores a digital facial image that allows facial-recognition machines to verify the identity of the passport holder at the border.
- Reduced risk of other countries imposing visa requirements on travellers. (Requiring a visa can cost up to $150 per trip, depending on the country).
- At some airports, ePassports enable automated border processing.
- The chip contains a digital signature unique to the Government of Canada. This safety feature helps border officers recognize that the passport is authentic.