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What Is Exactly a Biometric Passport? (Updated 2018)

A biometric passport, e-passport, ePassport and digital passport; lots of names but they all mean the same thing – a passport with a chip. “How do I know if my passport is biometric?”, you may be wondering. And the answer is quite simple. If your passport has this symbol “EPassport logo.svg” on its front cover, rest assured that it’s biometric. If you thought that Viselio’s logo was familiar looking, now you know that the little symbol on your passport was the source of our inspiration.   


Biometric passports, e-passports or however you wish to call them, all have a tiny electronic chip which contains biometric information of the passport holder. Besides this personal data that can also be found on the passport’s first page, the chip also includes the photo of the passport holder and his fingerprint. This is an additional safety measure which makes these passports resistant to frauds and identity thefts.




Currently, 96 countries are issuing e-passports and this number will only increase. While these biometric passports have an array of protection mechanisms, not each and every one of these countries are using the same ones. Lots of these mechanisms are optional. But, for instance, the Passive Authentication is mandatory. PA is a protection mechanism that detects changes made on the chip. This way any fraudulent activity can be detected and prosecuted. Likewise, the Extended Access Control is compulsory in the European Union since 2009. This mechanism is checking the authenticity of the chip.


How does the biometric passport work? Easy peasy actually. When a border control officer checks your passport, the data on the chip is securely read by a computer. The official will also check if you look like your photo in the passport and that would be all. An even quicker way to pass the border control is using the control gates (like the ones in Germany). There are cameras next to the gates with facial recognition technology that compare faces and passport photos instead of the border officials.


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