An Electronic Passport is the same as a traditional passport with the addition of a small integrated circuit (or “chip”) embedded in the back cover. The chip stores:
A biometric or biometric identifier is a measurable physical or behavioral characteristic of an individual, which can be used to verify the identity of that individual or to compare against other entries when stored in a database. Biometrics include face recognition, fingerprints, and iris scans. The U.S. Electronic Passport uses the digital image of the passport photograph as the biometric identifier that is used with face recognition technology to verify the identity of the passport bearer.
The special features of an Electronic Passport are:
The Electronic Passport facilitates travel by allowing:
The Electronic Passport is designed to function for the passport’s full validity period under normal use.
As a security measure, Congress has legislated that all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States must issue passports with integrated circuits (chips), to permit storage of at least a digital image
of the passport photograph for use with face recognition technology. The United States is doing so on a reciprocal basis and
will comply with the latest international standards established for secure travel documents.
What countries will issue an Electronic Passport?
Several other nations have begun or will begin to issue e-passports. The Visa Waiver Program countries have already done so.
Any passport that is lost or stolen should be reported immediately. U.S. passports reported lost or stolen are invalidated
and can no longer be used for travel. Learn how to report and replace a lost or stolen U.S. passport.
What is the Electronic Passport logo and what does it mean?
The Electronic Passport logo (shown below) is the international symbol for an electronic passport. It signifies that the passport contains an integrated circuit or chip on which data about the passport and passport bearer is stored. The logo will be displayed at border inspection lanes at all airports and transit ports equipped with special data readers for Electronic Passports.
No. The new electronic passports cannot be amended. If you change your name, need to extend a limited passport, or need a correction in the descriptive information, you will have to get a new passport. Within the first year after issuance, the new passport will be issued without additional payment of the passport fee. After one year, fees will be assessed for the new passport.
We feel that it would be good to point out what we have done to diminish the known nefarious acts of “skimming” data from the chip, “eavesdropping” on communications between the chip and reader, “tracking” passport holders, and “cloning” the passport chip in order to facilitate identity theft crimes.
Skimming is the act of obtaining data from an unknowing end user who is not willingly submitting the sample at that time. Eavesdropping is the interception of information as it moves electronically between the chip and the chip reader.
“Skimming.” We use an embedded metallic element in our passports. One of the simplest measures for preventing unauthorized reading of e-passports is to add RF blocking material to the cover of an e-passport. Before such a passport can be read, it has to be physically opened. It is a simple and effective method for reducing the opportunity for unauthorized reading of the passport at times when the holder does not expect it.
“Skimming and Eavesdropping.” We have adopted Basic Access Control (BAC) to minimize the risk of “skimming” and “eavesdropping.” Basic Access Control requires that the initial interaction between the embedded microchip in the passport and the border control reader include protocols for setting up the secure communication channel. To ensure that only authorized RFID readers can read data, Basic Access Control stores a pair of secret cryptographic keys in the passport chip. When a reader attempts to scan the passport, it engages in a challenge-response protocol that proves knowledge of the pair of keys and derives a session key. If authentication is successful, the passport releases its data contents; otherwise, the reader is deemed unauthorized and the passport refuses read access. This control would require the receiving state to read the passport machine-readable zone (MRZ) to unlock and read the data on the chip. The MRZ information is used for computing the encryption and message authentication keys used for the “secure” exchange. BAC mollifies the possibility of both “skimming” and “eavesdropping.”
“Tracking.” A chip that is protected by the BAC mechanism denies access to its contents unless the inspection system can prove that it is authorized to access the chip. However, these chips still allow the Unique Identifier (UID) to be communicated with the reader, which could theoretically allow the document bearer to be “tracked.” To prevent the use of the UID for “tracking”, we use a Random UID feature. A RUID presents a different UID each time the chip is accessed. In order to be considered random, the e-passport must present an RUID that cannot be associated with UIDs used in sessions that precede or follow the current session. Each chip uses its onboard hardware random number generator (RNG) module, thereby utilizing a true RNG base to derive a RUID.“Cloning.” It is possible to substitute the chip of an e-passport with a fake chip storing the data copied from the chip of another e-passport. However, the simplest way to mitigate this threat is to verify that the chip data belongs to the presented e-passport. This can be done by comparing the data stored on the chip to data on the e-passports data-page. If the photos and biographical data matches and the passport does not appear to have been tampered with (is not counterfeited), then the e-passport and the data stored on the chip can be considered to be belonging together. Additionally, the introduction of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) into travel documents provides, for the first time, the means of automatically (without human intervention) confirming that the person presenting the travel document, is the same person shown on the data page, and on the chip, with the assurance that the data was put there by the issuing authority and that the data has not been changed.
The new passports use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) technology that prevents the information stored on the chip from being altered. The e-passport and the use of the PKI digital signature stands to benefit the legitimate traveler. It provides a more sophisticated means to confirm that the traveler is the rightful holder of the passport and that the passport is authentic, thus deterring would-be passport/identity thieves. Use of the PKI to validate and authenticate the data in the chip supports passport inspection and would strengthen border control systems.
The chip in the passport is just one of the many security features of the new passport. If the chip fails, the passport remains a valid travel document until its expiration date. You will continue to be processed by the port-of-entry officer as if you had a passport without a chip.