Beijing: China will start issuing a new type of passport with an electronic chip that will contain a record of cardholder's personal information. The new passports will look like the traditional ones but a chip containing information like the cardholder's name, his date of birth, photograph and finger prints will be installed in them, a statement by Ministry of Public Security said on Friday.
Under preparation for the past three years, the new passports will be available from May 15.
The move will help in improving the safety of Chinese passports as they will now be equipped with more rigid anti-counterfeiting technologies such as special printing ink, laser signs, holographic film and digital signatures, the statement added.
It further said that strict protection measures will be imposed on the reading of the data, especially finger prints, to ensure the safety of digital information contained in the passport chips.
Finger print data can only be extracted through decoding devices used by China's border control authorities and police, it said.
With more than 90 countries adopting such passports, China was also feeling the need to use modern technologies for a constructive role in maintaining state security and facilitating citizens' travel abroad, the ministry said.
The procedure of applying for new passports remains the same, except that for an applicant aged 16 or over, finger prints and a signature are required.
For those under 16, finger prints will be taken only when their guardians agree, the statement said.
The Ministry also says the new passports would enable passengers to get a simplified experience at border control checkpoints through automated immigration checks, state run Xinhua reported.
The annual number of passports issued by China has increased sharply from 10 million in the 1990s to 10 million now, with an annual average growth of 20 per cent.