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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 16:39 GMT
Interviews for passports in 2006
British EU passports
New passport holders will have to undergo interviews
First-time passport applicants will have to undergo a face-to-face interview from the end of 2006, the UK Passport Service has announced.

The agency also revealed plans to introduce biometric passports, which will include a chip containing a scanned image of the holder's face.

The "epassports", introduced at the end of 2005, will be part of the programme of planned national identity cards.

The details have been set out in the UK Passport Service's new five-year plan.

'Tackle fraud'

The service said the new rules would require around 600,000 interviews a year. It would mean an extra week in the processing time of a passport, it is estimated.

It is hoped this will make it much more difficult for fraud to take place
Passport Service

The measures would "significantly improve the integrity of the UK passport", Home Office Minister Des Browne said.

He added: "These changes will also lay the foundations for the government's proposed national identity scheme - which would help tackle identity fraud, organised crime, illegal immigration, and terrorism."

A UK Passport Service statement said: "These changes come at a time of emerging global standards in the security of travel documents, with most western nations implementing measures to make passports more secure.

"The strengthened UK system will contribute to international security and law enforcement, as well as ensuring that UK citizens can travel easily around the world."

Multiple applications

A spokeswoman for the UK Passport Service said the interviews would be held in private and would take about 10 to 15 minutes.

They would aim to confirm an applicant's identity and the service would be able to check information such as National Insurance numbers and addresses against databases.

"It is hoped this will make it much more difficult for fraud to take place and put people off doing things like making multiple applications in the hope one will get through," she said.

Last year the service uncovered 1,327 fraudulent applicants and 90% of these had been sent by post, she added.

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