Biometric passports reach 2.5 million in U.K.

British agency has switched all production over to new style of passport, beating the U.S. visa waiver deadline.

More that 2.5 million e-passports have been issued in the U.K. since the new biometric documents went into production in March.

The U.K.'s Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has now switched all its production over to the new style of passport, a process that began earlier this year.

IPS executive director for service delivery Bernard Herdan said the design is the "most secure passport ever issued by the U.K."

He said the changeover to e-passports had taken place over a number of months, while the agency also dealt with record levels of demand for passports.

He said: "In combination with enhanced background checks and plans to interview first-time passport applicants from next spring, this new more secure passport will deliver a step-change in our ability to combat passport fraud and forgery."

The agency also pointed out that the switchover to biometric passports means the U.K. has beaten the U.S. visa waiver deadline, so U.K. travelers can still travel visa-free to the U.S.

The new passports include a chip with the holder's facial biometric, with facial recognition software used to check passport applications against a list of known passport fraudsters. But the additional security comes at a cost--passport prices have increased to 66 British pounds ($124), up from 42 ($79) last year.

Immigration controls have also been tightened--immigration officers can carry out "biometric checks" on any passenger who holds a biometric travel document to confirm that they are the rightful owner.

Steve Ranger of reported from London.
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