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The CATRENE-EUREKA consortium has published the outcomes of its "NewP@ss" research project on new passport technologies. By replacing today's read-only RFID chips with writeable chips, the next generation of e-passports will allow visas and stamps to be recorded cryptographically. This could help reduce visa fraud, but could also make it harder to determine where travelers have been.

Crypto-stamps could make border control more complicated

States would need common standards to record crypto-visas in one another’s e-passports, but host countries could also issue them as separate chipped cards. In either case, crypto-visas could be renewed and revoked electronically. They could help reduce fraud, especially if strengthened with biometric data.

The CATRENE-EUREKA consortium also says the passports themselves could be renewed electronically without replacing the physical document, but this is not practical. Countries that do not use the new system will deny entry to people carrying passports without visible expiry dates. Electronic renewal might work for identity documents designed to be used inside the issuing country, but anything intended for use abroad – including driving licenses – would need a printed expiry date.

If a state issues passports that allow another to record crypto-stamps, a third country might struggle to determine where travelers have been. This might stop some from denying entry to people who have visited countries they do not like or recognize, but it could also prompt them to turn away anyone with crypto-stamps they cannot read. States could agree to continue issuing ink stamps, but there is little incentive to do this. A state stamps passports to regulate immigration to its own country, not to others.

For citizens, the NewP@ss proposals threaten to remove the last vestige of fun from the tediousness of immigration control: filling one’s passport with exotic stamps and colorful visas. EU citizens have swapped this simple pleasure for greater freedom of movement, but that was a fair trade. Citizens will want to know how the technology benefits them, especially if it increases application fees like the current generation of biometric passports did.


Further reading

Citizen Identity and the Options for Local Government,IT0007-000821 (June 2015)

ID Management for Public Services: Opportunities and Pitfalls,IT0007-000767 (September 2014)

“ Verify requires a deeper – not just wider – set of identity attributes,” IT0007-000810 (March 2015)

“Holyrood creates a national identity register in all but name,” IT0007-000805 (March 2015)

“Lloyds moves toward fully digital origination with online identity verification,” IT0003-000646 (March 2015)


Nick Wallace, Analyst, Public Sector

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