EA e-passport: The Year When National Passports Went Under

Timothy Wahome

2018 was the final year when the respective consortium of countries in East Africa phased out their national passports to give way to the new EA-e-passport. The East African community Heads of Governments and States of the year 2016 had launched the novel electronic passport that had better technological advancement than previous national releases.

A brief about the electronic document is here available pertaining to the 5 w’s:

What it is: a biometric kit in document form. It feeds all personal data, including primary features, such as, name, surname and address, date of birth, fingerprints, iris color and other of the individual’s details. In the current document that has been available since 2016, the e-chip captures all that information, which is a replication of the document’s page 2 content.

Where to use it: the document, as of now, acts as a regional document-cum-national copy since the elimination of the previous country-based passports. This means it acts as an e-gate pass through an airport, scanning manual for a person’s iris of the orb (poetic for the eye) at immigration, and as an airline travel facilitation document. Visa issuance oversees also now taps into the passport’s details.

When to use it: whenever traveling overseas or in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Besides, it is handy when police need to check fingerprints and other e-signatures without amounting into parading the individual through arduous physical biometric microscoping of fingers and thumbs.

Which way to use it? It is dependent on the category under which the holder falls. For instance, the Diplomatic niche has a life of ten years from the date of application, not different from a typical Kenya passport of prior to April 2018, the first time the country ever issued its citizens an EA e-passport. Secondly, a Service or an Ordinary passport is dependent on the duration or validity of the specific job. Thus, the way to use the EA e-passport, was and still is, dependent on working conditions, purpose, status and other dispensations. Using it is as easy as any other modern passport, namely holding it to sight of the questioning officer or handing it over for stamping.

Why the EA-e-passport is essential: it is the gateway to international travel, serving as the identity document for all identification and personal reconnaissance abroad. It is hard for copycats to lay hands on it as just like a dollar it is immune to replication, owing to its high profile electronic chip with all personal info at its biometric fingertips. This is a far cry from typical passports which require plenty of foolproof details for them to escape forgery.

At a glance at its unveiling date, the then merely travel document was mainly sky blue in the face. It now features the hues of the EAC flag, namely red, sky blue and green. Its yellowish edges are actually indexing in golden color, inclusive of respective sovereign national emblems.  A Kenyan EA e-passport, for instance, has a topping with the term East African Community, with the bottom part bearing the word Kenya in it. The same would apply to a Rwandese, Tanzanian, Ugandan or Burundian passport.

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