Hong Kong is set to issue a new passport boasting security upgrades, creative ultraviolet designs and a biodata page sporting the national flag above the city’s bauhinia emblem.
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The new features to prevent counterfeiting would be on top of some 20 in the current biometric passport, while the booklet’s blue cover would remain unchanged, Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said on Friday.
The biodata page of the new passport will contain a laser-engraved portrait photo of the holder under a transparent layer – a technology adopted for the new Hong Kong ID cards that was rolled out in December. The page will also be made of polycarbonate and carry micro-printing.
While existing passports have the Tsing Ma Bridge and the regional flag as background print, the data page for the new version will include the national flag above the city’s, next to the Golden Bauhinia. The designs can glow under ultraviolet light.
To streamline procedures, the Post understands that self-service kiosks will be introduced to allow people to take photos and collect the passports later. Applications are expected to open in the second quarter.
Tsang said the existing passport, which had been issued since 2007, had already incorporated advanced security features, but the new ones could make counterfeiting the travel document more difficult.
“The technology has been updated, and new-generation tactile relief features, including new full-colour UV printing, can strengthen the Hong Kong passport’s security, integrity and worldwide interoperability,” he said.
The city’s passport is the world’s 13th most powerful, according to advisory firm Arton Capital’s global index, revealed in December.
Figures from the Immigration Department on Friday showed that a total of 163 countries and territories now grant visa-free access or visa-on-arrival to Hong Kong passport holders.
Holders will also be able to visit Panama and Armenia visa-free from next Sunday and March 3 respectively, bringing the number to 165.
Visa pages in the new passport will be in various flower prints, and a special feature brings out the city’s skyline on each page – in a different colour theme – when placed under UV light.
A so-called fanning effect on the passport’s open side will display the word “Hong Kong” in Chinese characters and the letters “HK” when page edges are viewed at an angle. When the edges are seen from the opposite direction, a picture of the Tsing Ma Bridge will appear.
The new passport will be valid for a decade for those aged 16 and above, and five years for children under 16.
Application fees are HK$370 for a 32-page version and HK$460 for a 48-page one. Tsang said despite the security upgrades, there were no plans to raise fees.
The department last year issued 701,467 Hong Kong passports, and 11.5 million since 1997.
In 2018, authorities found a total of 449 forged travel documents issued by different countries and 196 fake Hong Kong ID cards. The respective numbers for 2017 were 515 and 213.
Overall, Hong Kong saw a record 314 million people pass through the city’s control points – a 5.1 per cent surge from 2017.