German Parliament Approves Plan to Introduce Biometric Passports

BERLIN -- Germany's upper house of parliament on Friday approved a plan to introduce passports with biometric data, clearing the way for the country to start issuing the documents in November.

The so-called "ePass" will contain a chip that initially will hold a digital photo of the holder's face. Starting in March 2007, fingerprints also will be stored on the chips.

Friday's approval by the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament means that the passports can be issued starting Nov. 1.

"The bomb attacks in London demonstrate in a terrible way the current threat from international terror," Interior Minister Otto Schily said in a statement. "One aspect of combating terror is the security of travel documents."

The chip in the new passports "allows an electronic check of whether the person using the document is actually its holder," Schily said.

The new passports are to be phased in gradually, with machine-readable passports issued before November remaining valid for up to 10 years.

New technology will be phased in gradually at border control points to handle the chip passports, with full coverage expected by 2008.