Explainer: What you need to know about Malawi's e-Passport

ePassport

When news that Malawians will start having e-Passports on December 30 broke, the understanding of most was their old passports will no longer be valid and panic ensued.

Phone calls, texts, whatsapp messages came in raining asking for clarity on how this will all go; here is an Explainer.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services from the 30th of December will only be issuing e-Passports essentially phasing out the current passport.

Malawians should know that the current passport will still be effective for use until a date is announced when it ceases to be a valid travel document.

As of now the Department has not given any timeline, meaning one can still use the current passport but ‘must’ make arrangements and processes to have an e-Passport.

The question people are asking is what is an e passport

This is a bio-metric passport which includes a chip, which can be used at the automated e-Passport gates instead of having your passport checked by a Border Force officer.

The move is in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization recommendation. The chip holds the same information that is printed on the passport’s data page: the holder’s name, date of birth, and other biographic information.

Security

Government's introduction is based on the fact that e-Passports are designed to increase security, making it more difficult to change data recorded on it and therefore limiting the chance of fraud.

How it works

Nothing changes in the way users use their passports. Immigration Department officials will be using the booklet as has always been the case only that the electronic chip will be invaluable as an alternative storage facility for information of the holder.

In countries where they have automated systems e-Passport holders can use their facilities which have different lanes and makes the process even faster. Countries like German  have e-Passport which also require fingerprint.

Pricing

No special pricing has been announced or indication of any being given but for those who require the passports in a jiffy then they will have to pay USD$ 100 (which is K75,000).

A regular passport is currently at K48,000 with government subsiding the K30,000.-