DHS installs first RFID e-passport readers; will meet Congress’s 26 October deadline

Published 2 October 2006

he first RFID readers have been installed at SFI for the purpose of reading biometric information off passports from U.S. and visa waiver program countries; DHS will roll out readers to all major U.S. ports of entry

The age of the e-passport is here. DHS has installed RFID readers at San Francisco International Airport for the purpose of reading identifying personal information off of passports which include such information on a bar code on the inside cover. Officials from DHS’s U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program said the program is on track to meet Congress’s 26 October deadline for deploying the readers at U.S. ports of entry.

E-passports are already being issued by the U.S. State Department and by countries which take part in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Citizens of the twenty-seven participating countries who hold e-passports will be allowed to enter the United States without a visa. Citizens of these countries who still hold the old passports, and citizens of all non-VWP countries, will have to obtain an entry visa at a U.S. consulate.

The State Department began offering e-passports for new passport applicants earlier this year, after first providing them to diplomats and other officials. Privacy concerns have led the department to modify the original passport design to include a thin metal sheathing which prevents the escape of radio frequency emissions, thus thwarting what has come to be called digital pick-pocketing.

-read more in Wilson Dizard’s Washington Technology report