Axalto Technology Selected by the U.S. Government for New Passport

New passport will store facial biometric data starting next year


The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has awarded Axalto a contract to provide technology for the electronic passport. The GPO will use this technology to manufacture the U.S. passport booklet provided to U.S. citizens.

Axalto will deliver immediately initial quantities of passport electronic covers, related readers and software for test and qualification in the GPO passport manufacturing environment. The GPO expects to ramp up production to quantities above one million electronic passports in 2005. By 2006, all new passports are expected to have the electronic capability incorporated. The GPO currently produces more than seven million passports each year.

The electronic passport technology from Axalto includes the company's highly secure operating software with biometric capabilities running in a large capacity contactless microprocessor chip that is embedded in a module that is highly resistant to damage. This module is integrated in the passport booklet cover. The Axalto electronic passport technology was developed based on the company's proven smart card security technology and designed to provide superior durability and performance over the passport's 10-year life span.

To better protect travelers, streamline immigration processes and improve the security of the passport booklet, the U.S. Department of State and the GPO, which assembles all U.S. passports, decided to move forward with an electronic passport booklet in accordance with the standards developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Last year ICAO adopted the chip technology used in contactless smart cards as the standard for electronic passports in order to add a facial biometric and other security features to passport books. Following the tragic events of 9/11, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring the 27 Visa Waiver Program nations to adopt a biometrically enabled passport by November 2005 in order to maintain their status in the program. The U.S. electronic passport will allow U.S. travelers to remain in line with this mandate.

The computer chip in the passport will contain all the information that is now printed on the document's data page including a digitized photograph of the passport owner. The text data and the photograph can be read with a contactless reader at a border entry point and the electronically provided data can be compared to the information printed in the passport at issuance.