UK launches ‘world’s most secure passport’


By Craig Guthrie, deputy editor

LONDON - Senior British government officials launched a new passport in London on Tuesday featuring images of iconic British arts and science figures and unique new security features designed to prevent forgery and tampering.

The document has design flourishes such as London underground stations that are only visible under infrared light and 3D watermarks of Shakespeare, but officials stressed that the most important task was ensuring the document was secure as possible.

“I believe it is the most secure passport in the world,” said Mark Thomson, Passport Office Director General, told at the passport’s launch in the Globe Theatre in London today. “These are also the most intricate designs and security features that have ever been included in a British passport.”

“The UK passport has an international reputation as a trusted and secure travel document, and we work tirelessly to stay one step ahead of the criminals who attempt to abuse the UK’s immigration laws,” said UK Minister for Immigration, James Brokenshire at the event.

Although there have been no changes to the ePassport chip inside, in what the HMPO says is a world first, the passport features a continuous personal details page that is perforated with holes – meaning that any attempt to tamper with see it instantly disintegrate.

The details page is a key target for fraudsters, because the ePassport chip embedded in the document is too secure for the vast majority of prospective fraudsters to tackle.

Meanwhile, embedded into each of the visa pages is a new 3D watermark of William Shakespeare and a bright, 2D watermark of a writer’s scroll, quill and the page number. There is also embedded security fibres that consist of blue and red alternative bands. When exposed to UV light, each segment fluoresces a different colour.

Cutting-edge inks and printing techniques have also been handed an important role, with Intaglio, infrared, UV and Gemeni security inks all used in various sections of the document.

For instance, the four flowers of the British isles nations are shown on the personal details page, but under different lights, certain flowers become invisible – the same is true of ordinance maps and London underground maps on visa pages.

Uniquely, in a nod to new legal requirements that demand non-trained employers and landlords check passports – the document has a page detailing the broad aspects of security features so anyone can check the document's authenticity.

In-keeping with the focus on Britain’s cultural achievements, the document features images of John Constable, the painter; John Harrison, the inventor of the marine timekeeper; Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect; Charles Babbage, the inventor; and Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. It also features Elisabeth Scott, the architect, and Ada Lovelace, regarded as one of the first computer programmers.

The passport will begin a phased in circulation from December 2015.

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