NEWS

New passports come at a cost

Issuance of the new Greek passport containing a microchip is scheduled to start on Saturday, a government source said yesterday, and will cost applicants 76 euros, about a third higher than the previous charge for the travel document. The technology and extra components required for the microchip passport have pushed the fee higher, a Public Order Ministry source explained. Costs for travelers with the new passport may later drop, however, as the improved technology could mean that Greeks will be able to travel to some destinations without having to acquire a visa, the source added. The United States is among the list of countries that only allow entry to Greek travelers holding a visa. The source added that the US government may drop this restriction in its scheduled policy review in October due to the improved technology incorporated into the passport. The microchip will include a picture of the passport holder and some personal details. The biometric data will also be able to contain the passport holder’s fingerprint or iris scan. Saturday’s starting date for the new passports is two days before the European Union’s deadline for tighter controls concerning the document. Current passports will be valid as normal until the expiry date, according to the ministry. In anticipation of strong demand, Greek police have ordered 1 million passport books. Applications for them have so far been high. Since the start of the year, more than 80,000 new passports have been issued, while applications are expected for another 1.5 million by the end of 2006. It is the second change to the procedure regarding the issuance of passports since December when the government handed the task over exclusively to police authorities. Citizens interested in obtaining a new passport can head to one of 98 points across the country. Three more points are expected to be added to the Athens network in September – in Palaio Faliron, Zografou and Galatsi.