A new era dawns for the British passport


​​​​​New blue UK passport ​The new blue-cover UK passport will be one of the most technically advanced passports in the world

Gemalto has been awarded the contract to supply a new generation of UK passport. The new blue non-EU electronic passport would be gradually introduced from late 2019 and full production of blue non-EU passports would be in place by early 2020.

The new British pass​port​ will integrate for the first time a polycarbonate data page and include new security features developed by Gemalto.

Discover some of the major changes impacting the new travel document.

Setting new standards in the fight against fraud

The UK passport has always been a universally trusted document. It allows nationals to prove who they are and the freedom to move around the world.

Home office fighting fraud

That's why the new UK passport will be one of the most technically advanced anywhere in the world, offering holders outstanding protection against even highly sophisticated attempts at forgery and counterfeiting.

The holder's personal data will be duplicated on an electronic microprocessor embedded in the document, which features a secure operating system (OS) that has been developed in-house by Gemalto. It is fully compliant with relevant ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) standards.

Polycarbonate for the new British passport

High end security features also include the use of polycarbonate rather than paper for the passport data page that contains the holder's biographic details.

This transparent material has interesting optical properties, is very flexible, and has a very good impact and heat resistance with an overall great durability.

And no surprise this material is also used to make… bulletproof glass.

When used in pure form and not mixed with other plastics, the different layers of polycarbonate fuse together to form a solid monolithic structure.

There's more.

Why is polycarbonate a perfect match for security features?

New UK passport A polycarbonate data page on Gemalto sample.

Significantly, this is the first time that polycarbonate has been employed in the British passport, delivering a step change in defense against fraud

Once fused, it is impossible to separate the layers of such a polycarbonate page.

As a result, any attempt to swap the information or photograph will destroy the page. Moreover, polycarbonate supports a 'one-block' concept as described in our report on passport security design, with all the images, secure elements and holder data interlocked.

All features, secure element and ID document holder data are integrated in such a way that they protect each other from any fraud attempt.

For example, the holder's photo, laser engraved in the card body, is fully or partially interlocked with the secure artwork, printed features are in between the document surface and laser engraved layer, the photo side can be protected by tactile features such as positive/negative embossing, Changeable or Multiple Laser Image (CLI/MLI) or tactile laser, and the photo can be protected by embedded Diffractive Optically Variable Image Devices (DOVID).

Alongside these compelling security benefits, polycarbonate will enable outstanding durability over the document lifecycle.

Holistic security design

Our goal is to design a passport so secure that its authenticity can be trusted beyond any doubt.

We focus on protecting both the document and the citizen's data.

Security relies on the document design, its production environment as well as the personalization process.

A strong design demands the association of security features that are simple to check and tough to alter with a passport structure that protects its integrity. Therefore, we typically aim to use the same design elements throughout different security features at various security levels and use distinct techniques to reproduce them. Thanks to this philosophy, combined with our expertise and our power of development, our solutions are at the edge of innovation – and always way ahead of fraud or manipulation.

We implement each technology at its highest quality and level, and use means and materials with limited availability.

In a nutshell, we use technologies and materials that are extremely difficult to copy, to use, and to come by.

First identify potential threats 

When designing a high secure passport, the primary task is to identify potential threats. Then the necessary security measures are selected to counter these potential threats.

Select security features

The selection of a security feature is based on its ability to protect a specific part of the document (datapage, personalized data) and to increase or reinforce other security features.

Polycarbonate enables optimum use of each security feature: data page security features can be used to protect personalization and personalized features can protect data pages.

All design motives and security features we integrate in documents are fully compliant with the ICAO doc 9303 specifications and supplements. They also integrate the best practices to secure and protect the document from forgery and counterfeit.

Create a unique and distinctive passport

Our design approach is based on years of experience of documents in the field, feedback received from professionals and end users using the documents, from the co-operation with security experts and forensic laboratories, as well as the expertise of our dedicated engineers.

We're proud to have succeeded in designing some of the most secure and attractive passports, IDs and driver licenses to appear in recent years.​

​Paper matters

The physical security of a passport booklet relies strongly on the technology of its paper – its core component.

To maintain an effective defense against the menace of counterfeiting, all these paper elements clearly need to be given careful consideration. As ever, success will ultimately lie in making it as complex, time-consuming and expensive as possible for forgers to copy or compromise a legitimate document.

Gemalto has acquired in-depth know-how on paper technologies as it has been delivering passports and ePassports since 1987.

The company has an even longer history of security printing activities including banknotes, stamps and bonds.

Green passport for the UK

​​Helping travelers tread lightly

The landmarks do not end there. The new British passport will be the first in the world to achieve CarbonNeutral certification.

This means that its carbon footprint will be independently measured, validated and reduced to net zero in line with The CarbonNeutral protocol, recognized as the global standard in this field.

Techniques used to achieve this goal typically include purchasing carbon credits, and/or sourcing 100% renewable electricity to match that consumed by operations such as production and distribution. ​


Blue UK passports to return after Brexit

Indeed, UK heads back to blue.

The introduction of the new passport will see the UK revert to a traditional blue cover design.

This was dropped back in 1988, when the country adopted burgundy, in line with most other EU member states.

Following the country's decision to leave the European Union, the award of the contract was challenged by some politicians and sections of the media. However, the Home Office confirmed that the procurement process, which was conducted in strict compliance with EU regulations, had clearly delivered best value and a high quality solution for the country. Furthermore, Gemalto's proposal scored full marks in a number of key performance criteria such as cyber-security.

 
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Defined by international co-operation since the 1920s

Indeed, at the present time, Croatia's remains blue. What's more, the size as well as much of the format and content of virtually all passports is now defined by another international body, the ICAO.

The US also has its own requirements for overseas passports, which must be met if they are to be included in its visa-waiver program.

US Passport​Gemalto has been contributing to the US ePassport since 2006

The origins of a British icon

The UK's iconic blue design dates back to the very first set of international standards established for passports.

In 1920, the League of Nations (effectively the predecessor of today's United Nations), organized the Paris Conference on Passports, Customs Formalities and Through Tickets, which defined the format of, and information to be included in, any internationally recognized passport.

Notably, one of these requirements was that all the text should be in French, in addition to the language of the issuing country.

Today the ICAO offers nation states a little more freedom, with a choice of English, French or Spanish as a second language.​

UK Driving Licence 
Gemalto in the UK

Gemalto has substantial operations across five sites in the UK, and already employs over 500 staff in the country.

More precisely, Gemalto UK Ltd traded in the UK in its various forms for over 25 years and last year had an audited revenue of £99M paying associated taxes to the UK Government.

Gemalto has been proud to serve the UK government since 2012 through the provision of secure cards and data processing systems, via the DVLA contract.

This includes:

  • the UK Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card, issued by Home Office to non-EU nationals, which shares some key features with electronic passports, such as a polycarbonate card body and a contactless chip which complies with the same technical and data management specifications as those used in electronic passports.
  • The UK driving License in polycarbonate as well
  • Smart Tachograph cards issued by the UK authorities

In other UK markets, Gemalto UK Ltd is a major player

  • in the supply of financial cards to many UK Banks and Building Societies –all cards are personalized in one of our two centers in the South of England. The company offers services to Banks that enable them to offer their customers a more differentiated serviced such as placing their own picture on a card and receiving there PIN by SMS, Web or an App. Gemalto also supplies a number of hardware and software solutions to Banks and other businesses aimed at fraud prevention, encryption of data and protection of the IPR of our customers.
  • as a major supplier to the telecom industry where it supplies SIM cards to many Mobile Network operators and Virtual Mobile Network Operators. Next generation technologizes including On Demand Connectivity, Over the Air Activation of phones and eSIMs are also provided in the United Kingdom.
  • In transport. Gemalto supplies contactless transport cards to a number of transport of authorities in the UK.

There's more.

Actively supporting Charities

Gemalto are also aware of their responsibility to the community and our offices work with local and National charities supporting both financially and by staff given time to attend and support these charities in the field. 

In 2017 we supported Charites including Second Chance and the Saracens Foundation.

UK Passport design

Reaping the benefits of unrivalled global experience

In adopting Gemalto's solution, the HMPO (Her Majesty's Passport Office​) will benefit from the company's extensive global experience in the design, manufacture, issuance and personalization of many of the world's most advanced passports.

Notably this includes contributing to over 30 national ePassport (biometric passport) programs, including recent landmark projects for both Finland and Norway.  

Gemalto has expertise in the following fields related to Government programs:

  • Secure embedded software development
  • Paper printing with processes equivalent to banknote (Intaglio for example)
  • Polycarbonate data page manufacturing
  • Security features development and manufacturing
  • Inlays manufacturing (material embedding the contactless antenna and the RFID chip)
  • Passport bookbinding
  • Citizen biometric enrolment, secure storage and Automated Biometric Identification systems
  • Border and visa management systems, including eGates and document verification readers
  • Digital ID and Mobile ID solutions
  • Document personalization and lifecycle management.