KAMPALA – A number of Ugandans have embraced the new International East African E-passport, with as many as 1,000 passports issued daily.
The passport launched towards the end of last year is to replace the old passports.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mr Jacob Siminyu, on Monday said they are receiving overwhelming numbers of Citizens applying for the new passports. He said the Immigration Directorate is now implementing the government policy of issuing e-passports that came into force in December. The e-passports are replacing the machine-readable passports.
A consignment of paper for printing new passports arrived in the country last month, a development that eased the shortage.
Mr. Siminyu said when the e-passports are ready, the applicants are notified by SMS, adding that on daily basis, officials send up to 12,000 alerts, announcing specific days for picking the passports.
Mr. Siminyu, however, admitted there are also delays in the processing of the e-passports due to transitional challenges.
Using the old passports has a grace period of up to 2021 beyond which they will no longer be recognized and accepted as the country’s official travel document.
In line with implementation of East African Common Market Protocol, which guarantees free movement of people in East African community countries – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan), governments agreed to phase out the current machine-readable passports and replace them with the new generation of passports embedded with an electronic chip (e-passports). Among the EAC countries, Kenya became the first partner State to roll out e-passports in April 2017, followed by Burundi, and Tanzania. The new electronic passports have enhanced security features, including an electronic chip, which stores the bio-data of the holder. This is an important move because the world over, countries are being more digitalised so EAC needs to follow the trend to remain relevant and competitive.