India to Introduce Biometric Passports

SHIMLA, India, March 19 Asia Pulse - The Indian government plans to put in place a system for issuing biometric passports, or e-passports, by the end of this year and citizens can get them by 2008, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said on Friday.

The e-passports will be valid for 10 years, Sharma, who was here to inaugurate a passport office, told reporters.

Several countries have begun incorporating biometric information, such as retinal scans, in their passports as part of tighter security arrangements.

The "cumbersome" process of issuing passports has also been simplified by reducing the number of documents to be provided by applicants and they are now usually issued within four weeks, Sharma said.

Instead of 14 documents required earlier, only three are now needed to apply for a passport and one of them should have a photograph of the applicant, he added.

The time for issuing passports under the Tatkal system too has been reduced. Instead of 20 days, passports will now be issued in 14 days.

Expired passports will be reissued in seven days instead of a fortnight as before.

In general cases, passports should be issued within four weeks, Sharma said.

All passports are now machine printed to prevent occasional "harassment" in foreign countries due to bad handwriting on the documents, he said.

Steps were being taken to check "illegal" activities of agents and touts in passport offices. Closed circuit TVs were being installed in these offices to keep a watch on "malpractices", he said.

[Asia Pulse Businesswire -- 03/20/07]