Gov’t plans to introduce new travel documents with electronic features

Friday, February 6, 2009
Issue 604, Page 3
Word count: 316
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The government plans to introduce a new generation of SAR Passports and Travel Permits in the form of smart documents before the end of this year.

The smart travel documents will be embedded with integrated circuits, or “chips” which store holders’ personal details, appearance and fingerprint images in a digital form.

The spokesman for the Executive Council, Tong Chi Kin, said yesterday the electronic features would “strengthen anti-counterfeiting capabilities in Macau SAR travel documents”.

The Executive Council had finished discussion on the bill to introduce smart passports and travel permits for Macau permanent and non-permanent residents in order to gradually replace the existing traditional travel documents. 

Tong said the bill would be passed on to the Legislative Assembly “very soon”, as the government hoped to have the new kind of passports and travel permits launched before December when the first batch of Macau SAR travel documents issued in late 1999 expire.

After the establishment of the Macau SAR in December 1999, the government started to issue its own passports and travel permits with a validation period of respectively 10 years and five years.

Since “a lot of countries in the world have already been using electronic travel documents”, Tong said the government thus took advantage of the replacement exercise the end of this year to introduce smart features on passports and travel permits.

Existing travel documents, as long as they are still valid, can still be used after the smart ones are in circulation, Tong added.

Meanwhile, the spokesman said the bill also proposed a jail sentence of one to five years for people who were found “destroying the chips, stealing passports holders’ details, impacting the Identification Bureau’s operation on the chips, or hacking into the government authentication system to steal confidential data”.

Also, producing counterfeit smart travel documents, and illegally changing or reading the authentication system’s data could serve two to seven years in prison.

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