Saturday, 6 June 2009

EU: Passport biometrics

According to Article 62(2)(a) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), the Council shall establish standards and procedures to be followed by the member states in carrying out checks on persons at the external borders. The so called co-decision procedure applies (Articles 67 and 251 TEC).


Existing provisions are found in Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 of 13 December 2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States, , published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 29.12.2004 L 385/1.



Regulation 2252/2004 aimed at enhanced harmonised security standards for passports and travel documents to protect against falsification. At the same time biometric identifiers were integrated in the passport or travel document in order to establish a reliable link between the genuine holder and the document.

The Regulation concerning free movement of people is not applicable in Denmark, Ireland or the United Kingdom, but it applies to the Schengen area states Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, as well as Liechtenstein.


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Amendments


Amendments are on their way. Although the provisions of the directly applicable Regulation are addressed to the EU member states, this is an example of EU legislation with direct consequences for ordinary citizens, who apply for passports for themselves and their under-age children.

Regulation (EC) No 444/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 May 2009 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States, published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) 6.6.2009 L 142/1.



According to the Regulation, passports are issued as individual documents, which means that children need their own passports.

In addition to a photo, the passport requires fingerprints. Because of difficulties getting reliable fingerprints of children, under 12 year olds are provisionally exempted, but existing national lower age limits of at least 6 years of age can continue for four years.

Additional technical specifications will be established for passports and travel documents in accordance with international standards, including in particular the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).


Ralf Grahn