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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 03:10 GMT
UK biometric passports launched
A new British biometric European Union passport,
Passport prices have risen to 51 each to cover the new measures
The first UK biometric e-passports are to be issued to applicants this week, the Home Office has announced.

The hi-tech documents have added security features such as a chip holding the carrier's facial details, in a bid to combat fraud and forgery.

They will be introduced gradually throughout 2006 and will be issued to all applicants by the end of August.

The Home Office said the move was to improve the "integrity and security" of British passports.

"They will also help in the detection of forged or manipulated documents while confirming the identity of the individual," said Home Office minister Andy Burnham.

"Biometric technology makes use of the unique features we all have and there is no doubt that the use of biometric information to link a person to a passport will enhance security.

"In step with our European partners we will also be considering the inclusion of fingerprints as well as facial data in due course."

Facial features

The electronic chip will contain the digitally coded measurements of holders' features, such as the distances between eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

The information will be taken from the applicant's passport photo and can be used to identify them.

The new passport will also feature pages with intricate designs and new complex watermarks.

The UK is one of 40 countries adopting the new technology and in the process of introducing e-passports.

Countries like the UK, which are part of the US visa waiver scheme, must comply with new International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and begin issuing biometric passports, incorporating a facial image, by October to remain in the scheme.

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