Unless one has an urgent trip, they do not have to renew the old passports now. They can wait until January 15 and apply for the electronic passports.
Taddeo Bwambale
Journalist @ New vision
Unless one has an urgent trip, they do not have to renew the old passports now. They can wait until January 15 and apply for the electronic passports.


UGANDA - The Government is moving to phase out the current type of passports by the end of January 2021 as preparations start to introduce electronic passports.

Issuance of the e-passports will start on January 15, next year. Although similar to the existing passport, an e-passport contains a small contact-less integrated circuit (computer chip) embedded on the bio data page.

The US and several countries in Europe, America, Asia and Latin America have long adopted e-passports. Kenya and Burundi are among countries in East Africa that are already using e-passports.

The first batch of e-passports arrived on Monday and pretesting of the new type of passports will start next week, internal affairs ministry's permanent secretary, Benon Mutambi, told New Vision yesterday.

Cabinet on Monday approved the switch to e-passports during its sitting at State House in Entebbe, the Government spokesperson and head of the Uganda Media Centre, Ofwono Opondo said.

He said the transition to e-passports was in line with a January 15, 2021 deadline set by the six East African countries to phase out the machine readable passports.

"Unless one has an urgent trip, they do not have to renew the old passports now. They can wait until January 15 and apply for the electronic passports," Ofwono advised.

An ordinary electronic passport will cost sh250,000, an official (held by government officials) will cost sh400,000 and a diplomatic electronic passport costs sh500,000.

Currently, an ordinary passport costs sh150,000 while official and diplomatic passports cost sh200,000and sh400,000, respectively.

A person seeking to get any of three types of electronic passports in less than the standard two weeks processing period will have to pay sh500,000.

Today, an express passport costs sh300,000. Although the e-passport will remain the standard travel document, Ugandans with national IDs will still travel within the East African region using their IDs.

E-passport features the visa pages on the e-passports bear sharp, eye-catching features that represent Uganda, including the mountain gorilla, silver back, crested crane, independence monument, Murchison Falls and a fisherman.

Michael Ssebina, an immigration officer in charge of ICT who was part of the team that designed the new passport, said the features make the document fraud-proof.

"The biometric data stored on the chip guarantees the authenticity of the document. The chip is invisible to the eye and you cannot change what is contained on it," he explained.

The diplomatic passport retains its red colour, but the official passport has been renamed service passport and it is green in colour. A regular e-passport has navy blue color.

The passport is branded with the words East African Community, above that of Uganda. Part of the profile information is in English, Kiswahili and French.

Part of the transition to e-passports will involve integrating the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) database with that of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to ease processing of passports.

This means that anyone seeking a passport will not be required to go through the tedious process, which involves filling in multiple forms and seeking referrals from several authorities.

Instead, applicants will apply for e-passports online and later visit immigration centers to have their details verified against data from the NIRA database.

The new system will replace the traditional procedure, where an applicant is required to fill in two bio data forms and have them endorsed by three area local council chairpersons and two security offices.

Suspensions Between July 1, 2016 and March 15, 2017, over 63,000 passports were issued, according to the internal affairs ministry.

This implies that roughly 700 passports were processed per month, in nine months.

The process to shift to e-passports has not been without controversies. Early this month, three top internal affairs ministry officials were interdicted over endorsing a sh2.3b deal signed with a UK fi rm (Delarue) in July to supply of 54,000 passport books.

The officials are acting head of Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, Josephine Ekwang Ali; the commissioner for passport and citizenship, Nicholas Ongodia and the principal immigration officer, Jabel Male.

They reportedly said the ministry was running low on passport books and that the 54,000 copies were needed between November 2018 and January, 2019, when the planned migration to e-passports is expected to start.

Upon getting wind of the deal to procure fresh passport books, the internal affairs minister, Gen. Jeje Odongo, in a November 2 memo, directed the ministry's permanent secretary, Benon Mutambi, to take disciplinary action against the three officials.

The minister said action should be taken against the officials over supervising the process of procuring the passport books