Biometric IDs will cost more and more often

Published 9 May 2006

Biometric IDs may add to safety, but they will cost more — and will cost more to replace, a U.K. government study says

More and more governments have moved , or are planning to move, toward incorporating biometric information in different types of IDs and travel documents. Whether or not this will add to the safety of the documents and make it more difficult to steal identity are bones of contention. What is not in question, and the U.K. government has just said as much, is that citizens will pay more for the biometric IDs. They will pay more not only the first time they receive the new IDs, but will pay as well for a costly replacement if the biometric chip in their future passport or ID card breaks down.

In response to a written parliamentary question about footing the bill for damaged chips, U.K. Home Office minister Andy Burnham said that in many cases passport holders or ID card holders will have to pay. He said in a statement: “The current policy for replacing lost or damaged passports is that the customer makes a fresh application and pays the full cost for renewing the passport unless the document was clearly faulty at issue. There are no plans to change this policy for biometric passports.”

He added: “Every biometric passport goes through a vigorous quality assurance process before issuing to the public which ensures the passport reaches the public in full working order. Broadly comparable arrangements will be put in place for identity cards in due course.”

The passport and ID card combo is expected to cost around “93. The London School of Economics last year calculated the cost of reissuing ID cards — including defective, lost, stolen, and damaged cards, and cards reissued due to change in circumstances — at somewhere between “117 million and “173 million over ten years. The cost for biometric passports could add somewhere between “128 million to “257 million.

Experts have warned that one risk to biometric passports is over-enthusiastic officials at passport control, who can damage the chips when putting stamps into passports.