Sunday, April 25, 2010

EA passport to enable travel around the globe

The East African passport is to be upgraded to international standards and will allow citizens to travel around the world.

The new EAC passport complies with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) document 9303 standards. Personal details of the applicant will now be legible through a computer from the “machine readable zone.

The holder’s fingerprints, signature and photograph will be acquired digitally and stored in a database. The old model of the passport introduced nearly a decade ago by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya has the holder’s data type written or hand written on it. It was meant to ease border crossing.

But the document has not been as popular as the traditional passports issued by the Immigration departments in the respective states. It ended up being used mainly by ordinary people such as traders and students travelling across the region, with government officials and business people shunning it.

Juma Mwapachu, the East African Community secretary general said though the traditional passports had been accepted internally, they were not used internationally.

This is why we want to upgrade the EA passports so it can allow electronic screening,” Mr Mwapachu said.

When they were first issued, the EA passports were valid only in EAC member states but were to be upgraded into international passports starting this year. They would eventually replace the national passports.

However, this proposal is unlikely to materialise in the near future as a lot of groundwork has to be done, including phasing out the national passports of individual states and printing new passports with security marks.

Unlike the EA passports which one has to pay $10 to acquire and is valid five years, national passports of the three partner states are valid for 10 years.

Meanwhile, the issuance of the old passport has been suspended indefinitely to allow for the upgrading work to be completed.

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