Biometric passport definition

Last updated January 27th, 2023

What Is a Biometric Passport?

A biometric passport, also known as digital passport or e-passport, is a type of travel and identification document used by many nations. This type of passport has an embedded electronic chip that contains key information to authenticate the identity of its holder.

How does an e-Passport work?

Biometric passports use contactless smart card technology, which includes a computer chip and an antenna. The technology is generally embedded in the front or back cover of the passport, or in the center page.

The most important information is printed on the data page of the passport, and also stored in the microchip. Immigration authorities scan the biometric passport and check the data against the holder to authorize their identity.

Differences between a biometric and non-biometric passport

Visually, a biometric passport is almost identical to a traditional passport.

The key difference is that an e-Passport includes a microchip, however it is embedded in the cover and is therefore not detectable.

The only visible difference between the 2 passport types is that a biometric version also has a small e-Passport symbol at the bottom of the front cover, which looks similar to a camera symbol. This is how you can identify if your passport is biometric.

The electronic passport is the only current version of the US passport. The Government stopped issuing traditional passport in August 2007.

Benefits of an e-Passport

There are a number of benefits to a biometric passport, including:

  • Greater security for travelers
  • Faster entry at immigration
  • Protects against identity theft

This is why many countries, like the US, have now replaced traditional passports with e-Passports.

Biometric Passport Requirement

A number of immigration programs around the world now have a mandatory e-Passport requirement. This includes the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the upcoming ETIAS authorization for Europe.

These systems are only functional with a biometric passport, therefore travelers must ensure that they have an e-Passport before they start the application process.