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BVI NOW ISSUING DIGITAL PASSPORTS

Contact: Susanna Henighan – Communications Officer
Telephone: 494-3701 ext. 3926
Email: shenighan@gov.vg

BVI NOW ISSUING DIGITAL PASSPORTS

Friday, September 28 – With the installation last week of new passport equipment, the BVI Passport Office on Monday began issuing digital passports for the first time.

The Passport Office was closed September 17-21 while technicians from 3M Canada set up the new passport equipment and trained staff on its use.

“The closure was for a good cause. We now have a new system in place and we have improved the quality of our end product,” Registrar-General Mrs. Victoreen Romney-Varlack said.

The digital passports replace the old machine-readable passports in which the holder’s photograph was pasted and then laminated inside the passport.  In a digital passport, the holder’s photograph and signature are integrated into the identity page.
“The digital passports are more secure in that they are extremely difficult for anyone to duplicate,” Mrs. Romney-Varlack said, adding that other countries around the region, including the other British overseas territories, are making the switch to digital and biometric passports.  “All of this is to standardize passports universally and also to meet the United States’ more stringent standards following the 9-11 attacks.”

Mrs. Gena Smith of the Passport Office said there is also a new application form, but noted that the application process remains the same in all other respects. The office continues to process passport applications in two weeks or less, she added.

The next passport innovation on the horizon is biometric passports, where a computer chip with specific identifying information is embedded in the document. Mrs. Romney-Varlack said that a key advantage of the Passport Office’s new equipment is that it can be adapted to produce biometric passports when the need arises to do so.

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The Passport Office is responsible for receiving passport applications and issuing Virgin Islands passports. The Office also issues BVI visas and receives applications for UK passports. It is located on the ground floor of the Central Administration Building in Road Town.

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