Biometric Passport Forms Ready January 25

New forms for the issuance of biometric passports will be available to Ghanaian applicants from January 25, 2010 when the old forms will be withdrawn. The new arrangement is an update on an earlier report that the process of going biometric would begin in April 2010. The Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Minister, Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, told the Daily Graphic that, a local printing firm which won the award for the production of the booklets had already produced more than 500,000 copies out of the initially contracted figure of 1.5 million booklets. He said April 20l0 was, indeed, the deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for all countries to effect the changeover and that the actual issuance of the biometric passports in Ghana would start from February.3, 2010 to enable the country to meet the deadline. However, citizens in possession of valid old passports can still use them until they expire. Under the new regime, new passport fees of GH50 and GH 100 would be charged for ordinary and expedited delivery services, respectively. The minister explained that the GH50 and GH 100 covered the cost of the application forms. Alhaji Mumuni said applicants would now have to personally submit their application forms at the application centres for their passport photographs to be taken with a high resolution camera, while fingerprints and signatures were also recorded. "This means that instead of the applicant submitting photographs with a passport application form that is already thumb-printed somewhere, it will now be .required that the photograph and the fingerprints of the applicant are taken at the application centres at the time of presenting the application forms. This is also intended to eliminate middlemen," he said. According to him, applicants would also send along their birth certificates and other documentation, including the national identification card, to be vetted and scanned into the system. He said the information would be uploaded to the Central Operations and Production Unit of the Passport Office, where the details and certificates would be verified, during which all details would be vetted against the stop list. Alhaji Mumuni said the forms would then be passed on to the directors for final vetting and authorisation to issue the passports, stressing that "all the processes, with the exception of the final vetting, printing and issuance, are expected to take place on the same day, thus enhancing service delivery". He explained that while the biometric passport contained fingerprints, hand prints, iris scans and is machine readable, the integrated circuit (chip) embedded in the back cover of the e-passport added digital security features, including information on the printed data page which showed the passport was authentic and the information in the chip had not been altered and, therefore, difficult to forge. He said those features on the e-passport prevented counterfeiting and better linked the passport to its owner. Alhaji Mumuni said radio, television and other forms of publicity on the biometric passports would begin by January 6, 2010. Initially, he said, there would be seven application centres in Accra, Tamale, Ho, Sekondi/Takoradi. Kumasi, Sunyani and at the Passport Office. He, however, explained that until all the equipment was fixed, data captured outside Accra would have to be transported to Accra electronically for the issuance of the passports, which might cause an initial delay. Alhaji Mumuni said Ghana's missions in London, Rome, Berlin and Washington had been identified to also issue the biometric passports until a time that the process was extended to more missions.