Passport Canada is preparing to begin issuing all new passports as electronic passports, or ePassports. Issuance of ePassports will begin before the end of 2012; the exact timelines will be announced at a later date. This higher-security passport will have an electronic chip embedded in the book. The chip is an extra security feature that will enhance the Canadian passport’s current security features, which include holographic images and a hidden photo of the bearer that can only be viewed under ultraviolet light.
The current Canadian passport already contains information that can be scanned. The last two lines at the bottom of page 2 form the machine-readable zone, which contains the passport holder’s personal information found on page 2 in a format that can be scanned by border agents.
The addition of the chip represents the next generation of machine-readable travel documents. Unlike the traditional machine-readable zone, which will still be found on the ePassport, the electronic chip contains the passport holder’s photo. It also contains a country-specific signature that proves the passport was issued by the Government of Canada.
The information stored on the chip is identical to the information that is visible to the naked eye on page 2 of the passport, as well as the information repeated in the machine-readable zone. The visible photo must match the photo stored on the chip, as well as the “ghost” photo printed in ultraviolet ink.
When the passport holder’s information and the Government of Canada’s unique signature is originally stored on the chip, the chip is electronically locked. This means that even if someone were able to tamper with the data on the chip, the chip would indicate that the lock had been broken and the fraud would be detected.
Click here to read more about ePassports and their security features on Passport Canada’s website.