As technology continues to advance, customs and security agents at airports across the globe have looked for ways to use emerging tech to speed up and simplify customs and passport checks. As part of that, biometrics and electronic passports, or e-passports, have become increasingly popular.
Marylyn texted VERIFY with screenshots from a TikTok video that says “electronic passports to become available March 31.” She asked if this was true.
When searching for more information about “electronic passports March 31,” Google says people also ask “Are all US passports electronic?” and “How do I know if my U.S. passport is an e-passport?”
Does the U.S. issue electronic passports?
Yes, the U.S. issues electronic passports and has since 2007.
WHAT WE FOUND
An electronic or e-passport is the standard book passport that has a microchip embedded in the back cover. It is not a digital passport, such as a mobile passport app.
The U.S. Department of State says it has exclusively issued electronic passports since 2007.
The screenshots Marylyn sent VERIFY are from a TikTok account of a former Jamaica News Network reporter named Abi-Gaye Smythe. In the video, she reports that electronic passports will become available to Jamaicans on March 31.
The Passport, Immigration & Citizenship Agency (PICA), a Jamaican government agency referenced in the TikTok video, wrote on March 28 that the country would start issuing its new e-passports on March 31.
More than 150 countries already use electronic passports. All e-passports across the globe are identified with the same symbol on the front cover, which looks like a circle inside a rectangle split in half.
The chip in an American passport stores a unique identification number, the personal information displayed on the passport’s photo page, a digital version of the photograph to be used by facial recognition technology at ports-of-entry and a digital signature meant to protect the data from alteration.
“If the chip fails, the passport remains a valid travel document until its expiration date,” the State Department says. “You will continue to be processed by the port-of-entry officer as if you had a passport without a chip.”
Passport cards, which are used for land or sea travel between the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Bermuda, are not e-passports.