Why Rwanda plans to issue e-passport

Rwanda will start issuing electronic passports to her citizens in a move immigration officials say will enhance the safety of the country's travel document.

Rwanda will start issuing electronic passports to her citizens in a move immigration officials say will enhance the safety of the country’s travel document.

It remains unclear when the government will start issuing the biometric passport but a cabinet meeting earlier this month approved the project.

An e-Passport contains an electronic chip bearing the same information that appears on the ordinary passport’s biodata page including the holder’s name, date of birth, among other biographic data.

It also contains a biometric (biological data) identifier, which allows prompt and effective verification of the holder.

Ange Sebutege, head of communication and customer care at the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, yesterday, said: “The e-Passport is the world standard travel document. Rwanda has an international obligation to enhance the security of its travel documents.”

Describing the standards of ordinary passports that Rwandans currently hold—Ordinary Machine Readable Passport—as minimum, the official said e-passports would improve travel experience for Rwandans.

“An e-Passport will enable Rwandans to use online services such as automated border clearance or “e-gates”, automated issuance of boarding passes, faster travel arrangements with airlines and will facilitate quicker clearance at immigration checks,” Sebutege said.

E-passports are already in use in more than 100 countries around the world but closer to home, Burundi is the only country in the East African Community that issues them to date.

Sebutege said Rwanda has no choice but to start issuing e-passports because in the future all countries around the world shall be obliged to switch to the e-passport due to the growing need for efficient border security.

He explained that holders of e-Passports are received with more trust by other countries because the passport is more secure and easier to verify.

“E-passports shall enhance Rwandan passport acceptability and trust around the world,” he said.

The official said it’s not yet clear when and at what cost the government will start issuing biometric passports because the project is at its early stages.

“The cost of the project is not yet established as it shall depend on many factors such as the type of biometrics that will be selected,” he said.

He added that once the e-passport is in place, the existing machine readable passports (MRP) or ordinary passports will continue to be in use up to their expiration but their issuance shall be stopped immediately after the launching of the electronic passport.