Today, 30 March, the government approved the draft legislation prepared by the Ministry of the Interior amending the Identity Documents Act and State Fees Act and sent it for legislative processing in the Riigikogu. Its aim is to implement the adoption of biometric data in identity documents and to curtail the period of validity of identity documents from the current 10 years to 5 years.
“People have unique biometric data, and making use of that in documents means better protection against counterfeiting and criminal misuse,” said Interior Minister Kalle Laanet. “Carrying biometric certificates in travel documents is most important for running checks on people on the external borders of the European Union. That way people who are travelling for the right reasons cross the borders without trouble and it is a lot easier to find people who are using forged or stolen documents.”
In accordance with the directive of the Council of the European Union, two biometric identifiers – for face and fingerprint recognition – will be carried in travel documents. What this means technically is that a microchip in which the facial pattern and two fingerprints of the owner of the travel document will be added to the document. The plan is to adopt facial biometrics in identity documents from autumn 2006, with fingerprint technology adopted in 2009 at the earliest.
The draft legislation also shortens the maximum validity of ID cards, Estonian passports, diplomatic passports, seamen’s discharge books, aliens’ passports and refugee travel documents from ten years to five. “The technology used in producing these documents develops quickly and becomes available to forgers in only a matter of years,” explained Minister Laanet. “The durability of the data format is also limited. Shortening their period of validity is necessary to ensure the security of the data electronically encrypted within them and to be able to better ascertain people’s identity.”
The adoption of face biometric technology will at first .....
... mean no changes for people. The facial recognition data of applicants for documents will be taken from their photos. Where the difference lies is in the technology used to process and check the photographs. After fingerprint information is also adopted in travel documents, applications for documents containing biometric data by mail or over the Internet will no longer be possible. Travel document applicants must submit their applications and provide their fingerprints in person at an office of the Citizenship and Migration Board or at a foreign representation of Estonia.
Those people who have valid travel documents will not have to apply for new documents as a result of the adoption of biometric technology. All previously issued documents shall remain valid until the date specified in them, as is the international norm.
The Act is expected to enter force on 28 August 2006.