By Mark Kawalya
Uganda is upgrading from paper-based biodata passports to polycarbonate passports, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Maj Gen Apollo Kasiita Gowa, the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Control, while speaking to journalists, said the passports will have advanced security features.
“We have completed an upgrade to polycarbonate e-passports. The aim of the upgrade is to ensure enhanced security features, durability as well as conforming to requirements as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and EAC,” Maj Gen Gowa said.
He added that the polycarbonate passports are superior quality, will facilitate quick data verification at ICAO member state airports and offer better data protection.
However, he clarified that the polycarbonate electronic passports will be in use along with the older paper-based passports until they are gradually phased out.
“Both will continue in operation. The paper-based e-passports will continue to be used until expiration or when leaflets run out. The upgraded polycarbonate e-passports, just like paper-based e-passports, have an electromagnetic chip, but the polycarbonate passports have polycarbonate, which are tough plastic layers infused together, leading to a finished material where personal data is engraved inside the deeper layers of the document with laser.”
Information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs states that the polycarbonate passports have data protection and anti-fraud features which facilitate self-clearance at airport electronic gates and the automated issuance of boarding passes for travelers. These passports also fulfill the requirements of international travel security standards.
Additionally, the ministry stated that, for now, the upgrade to polycarbonate has been rolled out for ordinary e-passports, while official and diplomatic e-passports will continue to be paper-based until they are upgraded at a later date.
Information from officials from the ministry puts the cost of the polycarbonate passports at Shs250,000, which has always been the standard charge, while those who wish to use the express option will pay Shs400,000 for faster processing.