In April 2009 the Republic of South Africa started issuing a new generation of electronic passport with a highly secure polycarbonate data page from Trüb AG, now part of Gemalto. This new passport with its high security features and long lifespan is considered as a milestone on the African continent.
The initiative aimed at improving customer service and stamping out forgery. The new SA passport brings the country into line with International Civil Aviation Organization standards for technology and security as well as a solution which will last over the complete lifespan of the travel document.
The new passports have an embedded microprocessor which stores the owner's biometric information, including personal details, a high-resolution photograph and fingerprint information.
SA passport: extremely difficult to forge
Several security features are designed to make it extremely difficult to forge, according to the government, principally the data page which now consists of seven layers of polycarbonate, each with an individual security feature.
Rather than placing a physical photo on the page covered in laminate, the passport holder's photo is laser-engraved on one of the polycarbonate layers, as is a copy of their biographical data.
The data page designed in Switzerland by Trüb is made of fused polycarbonate layers and is laid out for high resolution laser personalization including tactile laser engraving. Other security features include interlocking stitching to prevent pages being removed or tampered with, and micro threads embedded in each page which store a form of uniquely identifiable 'DNA'.
This product and its production method have the added advantage that any tampering with the data page leaves visible traces on the document.
Discover why polycarbonate is the material of choice for SA passport.
Learn more on the SA national ID card as well.