Australia Studies Biometric Passports for Its Australian citizens living in the UAE

Australian citizens living in the UAE may have to apply for "biometric passports" next year if trials of the technology are successful.

The Australian Embassy has said it is too early to name a price for the new passports, which are part of a campaign to combat identity fraud.

The ePassports, as they are known, are also made to meet post 9/11 US requirements that call for countries on Washington's Visa Waiver Programme to introduce biometric identifiers in their passports by October 26, 2005.

They will contain some piece of information that can be cross-matched with the bearers' biological make up.

According to the Australian Embassy in the UAE, the passports would use "facial recognition technology," rather than an iris pattern or fingerprint.

"Using the technology, the images of first time applicants will be checked against images in the database to ensure that a passport has not been issued in another name," a statement from the embassy said.

"Renewal passports will also be checked. This technology will provide a more reliable basis for border identity checks."

The new passports will be tested at simulated entry ports in the United States by Washington's Department of Homeland Security. If tests are successful, checks will be done to see whether Australia's biometric technology is compatible with the US infrastructure. If it works, the Australian Government may consider introducing the passports next October.

The embassy still does not know how much the passports will cost, or what price Australians will be charged for them.

Applications for the new passports can be filed at the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the Consulate in Dubai.