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March 7, 2014
SVG introduces travel document of highest international standard

National security in St Vincent and the Grenadines has been strengthened, with the introduction of e-passports here.{{more}}

On Tuesday, e-passports, which are said to be more secure than the current machine readable passports, were officially launched in this country.

While speaking at the launch, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told the gathering that they should be proud of the achievement of having a more secure travel document.

“We have a very secure travel document, in line with the highest international standard established by the International Civil Aviation Organization. That’s what we are doing here today. That’s what we did in 2005 and we are lifting the game even higher,” he said, making reference to SVG’s introduction of machine readable passports in 2005.

“People forget how you used to write it up with your hand and the lack of security features in those passports. The e-passports have a lot of enhanced security features.”

Gonsalves, who is also the minister of national security, explained that the e-passports are tamper-proof,with a chip embedded in the page, which stores data. He said in this way, the country is keeping ahead of criminals who may want to breach the country’s barriers.

“In Canada, in the US, all over the world, you still have occasionally, somebody getting away with a source document, some fraud. What we have to do is to have zero tolerance for that and keep the number to zero,” the prime minister said.

Canadian Bank Note is the company facilitating the transition from machine readable to e-passports.

Simon Wall, the vice president and director of business development for CBN, noted that having e-passports, which contain security chips, inspires greater confidence and acceptance in a country’s travel document.

“Approximately 105 countries are now issuing e-passports. They include countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,” he said, noting that St Vincent and the Grenadines is the second member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to introduce an e-passport.

“This is a message to the global community, basically saying that St Vincent takes security extremely seriously and it’s sending this message to the outside world”.

Wall indicated that one of the security features is a frangible laminate, which makes tampering with the passport absolutely impossible.

“Any attempt to alter any information will result in the destruction of the data page,” he said.

Another upgrade to this country’s passport is that it now has a lifespan of 10 years, instead of five, for adults. Children under the age of 16 will be issued five-year passports; reason being that their features change over time.

The prime minister noted that for adults, the e-passport will cost EC$150 and EC$80 for children under the age of 16.

Also, e-passports will come in three different colours. Ordinary passports are green, official passports are blue and diplomatic passports are burgundy.

While the passports will be issued with 32 pages, Gonsalves noted that 52-page passports are expected to be reintroduced, particularly because of the new 10-year span, as well as to “facilitate business travellers and persons…officials and diplomats, who tend to travel quite frequently.”

According to Gonsalves, the e-passports’ introduction cost the government US$3.4 million.

The e-passports are being issued at the Passport and Immigration Office, which was relocated from Police Headquarters to the upper level of the former D’s Services building, opposite Y De Lima on Bay Street. This building also houses the Electoral Office.