PHOTO | COURTESYPHOTO | COURTESY
By STELLA CHERONO

The Immigration Department will, starting Friday, process and issue the East African Community e-passport to conform to the requirements of the regional bloc.

The Common East African e-passport meant to enhance the integration and cross-border management agenda, will have a chip embedded with the holder’s details and bio-data.

Gradually, the current Ordinary, Diplomatic and East African passports will be phased out and then finally rendered obsolete on September 1, 2019.

“The Immigration Department will no longer process and issue the current passport and whoever has applied or planning to apply for one will be issued with the new e-passport,” Director of Immigration, Maj-Gen (rtd) Gordon Kihalang’wa, said during the launch.

The e-passport, according to acting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, offers additional security checks and it will be difficult to produce duplicates.

“The electronic chip embedded in the e-passport booklet stores the holders’ bio-data and biometric information.

PASSPORT FORGERY

“The data base is enhanced with Automated Fingerprint Verification System (AFIS) that guards against multiple passport issuance to the same person,” Dr Matiang’i said.

He also said the features minimise theft of data, skimming and passport forgery, adding it will come in handy in addressing the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other transnational crimes while curbing cases of identity fraud.

“The use of advanced security features and sophisticated centralised printing techniques will complement the embedded chip in providing extra security for the passport,” Dr Matiang’i said.

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The rollout of the issuance of the EAC e-passport was launched during the 17th EAC Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State held in Arusha, Tanzania, on March 2, 2016.

So far, the Department of Immigration has received some 1,800 applications for the new e-passport. Maj-Gen Kihalang’wa said the department also had a backlog of another 16,000 applications for the current passport which will automatically be processed as e-passports.

“We are asking those who made the applications to come and give their signatures and other details in order for us to continue with the processing,” Maj-Gen Kihalang’wa said.

NEW PASSPORT

He said the new modernised system, which has cost the Treasury Sh500 million, will make it faster for the department to process new passports and make renewals.

“With the kind of equipment we have now, we will be able to process up to 2,000 passports a day, an improvement from the 800 we have been doing,” Maj-Gen Kihalang’wa said.

However, he said the 3,000 already processed and printed passports will be issued to the owners but they will be encouraged to apply for the new passport during collection. Maj-Gen Kihalang’wa urged the Interior ministry to facilitate the supply of 120 computers and scanners it needs in order to make the department’s job easier.

The application and payment procedures for the new e-passport have not changed from the existing ones.

Also, the application can be done online through the e-citizen platform, but applicants will be required to present themselves for biometric capture at the passport issuing offices in Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi.

The launch was also attended by Cabinet Secretaries Phillis Kandie (East African Community), Joe Mucheru (Information Communication and Technology) and Charles Keter (Energy) and several principal secretaries.