Biometric passport: How can I know if the chip is still working? Does it matter?

  • My biometric passport inadvertently spent some time under the rain. It's not badly damaged but some sheets are a bit deformed and there are tiny brown spots on the side. I am wondering if there is an easy way for me to determine if the chip is still working. If it does not, can I still use the passport? Which countries require a biometric passport or actually use the data?

    Also, how much of a problem can a lightly damaged/worn out passport be? Is it more likely to be an issue in some countries than others?

    PS: Right now, I am preparing for a possible trip to the US and since there is still time, I will most likely ask for a (costly, turned out requesting a new one was free, for some reason) new passport just in case but I would be curious to know if that's really necessary or about potential issues in other countries as well. The passport in question is still valid for more than three years, still has many free pages and was issued by a EU country whose citizens are eligible for the visa waiver program.

    First, you might be refused if your passports looks damaged! second, I wouldn't take a chance and travel all the way to be refused. Just renew the passport.

    Well, that much I figured out myself (see my PS), I am more interested in authoritative information or actual experience with this, how likely it is to have a problem if I was in a situation where renewing isn't an option (say leaving tomorrow), etc. Obviously, the risk I want to avoid is being refused but I guess frequent travelers frequently (!) have passports that look worse than mine, so how strict are border polices with that? And apart from the appearance of the passport, does the chip matter?

    Annoyed, take a trip to the immigration office, let them tell you the decisive answer. Regarding passports, since my job requires me to fly a lot, it is an ugly passport with messed up pages and still working, it just never touched water.

    @HaLaBi OK, thanks for your feedback. Still would be interested to know whether anyone cares about the chip and how to find out if it's been damaged.

    I would assume it doesn't matter while many non-electronic passports are also still in use. But once they're all pervasive it might become more of an issue.

  • Doc

    Doc Correct answer

    8 years ago

    ePassports use a "Near Field Communication" (NFC) chip to carry the biometric information.

    Many modern smartphones include a NFC reader, which allows them to read the data from the e-Passport - if you can read that data, then your ePassport is working. If you can't, then it's likely broken.

    There are a number of apps that can read the data from the passport using NFC, such as NFC TagInfo for Android. The information on the NFC chip is protected using a password composed of your passport number, data of birth, and passport expiry date so you will need to manually enter these before it is able to display the data from the NFC.

    No countries are currently enforcing the use of ePassports for entry, so you will not have any issues getting through immigration with a "failed" e-passport.

    In some countries, such as Australia (SmartGate) and the US (Global Entry), an ePassport is required to use the automated expedited entry lanes. Without a working ePassport you will not be able to use these lanes, however at least in Australia you will be able to jump to the front of the normal lines if/when using the SmartGate fails.

    Same for the automated entry lanes in France: you'll need a working ePassport or a passport (even non-biometric) previously registered at a PARAFE booth (you'll find them in big airports e.g. CDG and ORY).

    In Luton, UK you can also jump to the front of the normal line if your ePassport reading fails.

    I had the same experience at Gatwick too.

    This answer will shortly be out of date, as it seems the US is enforcing ePassports for VWP visitors:

    @DJClayworth they require you to have an e-Passport, but they don't say its chip has to be in working order. Enforcing such a requirement would be entirely unreasonable, since most people have no way to verify the state of their passport's chip.

    I have two biometric passports. My phone is barely able to read one and unable to read the other. In researching that, I learned that passport scanners use more powerful equipment to read the chip, so they are far more likely to succeed than a phone is. In other words, if you're phone can't read the passport, the passport could still be functional.

    For reading the passport chip I would recommend a different app which is actually designed for the purpose, such as ReadID, which reads the machine readable section of the data page and then the NFC chip.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM