Biometric passports and passport readers

Updated 8 August 2016

Types of passport

The first e-passport was issued on 6 March 2006. These e-passports introduced a new design with additional security features, including a chip with the holder’s facial biometric. The passport showed the personal details on the back page with the chip and antenna visible on the observations page. They were introduced gradually throughout 2006. This mirrored the introduction of e-passports in over 40 other countries and ensured the UK remained within the US visa waiver scheme.

From 4 October 2010 HM Passport Office began to issue a new style e-passport (version 2), to UK nationals. The personal details page (which includes the photograph) and the observations page have been moved to the front. The electronic chip, which includes the same information as printed on the personal data page, is in the back cover.

The new UK series B e-passport was introduced through a phased implementation from December 2015. The biodata page (personal details) forms one continuous sheet and is at the front of the passport on page 2.

E-passport readers

E-passport readers are installed in 3 HM Passport Office public counters to enable e-passport holders to view the information contained within the electronic microchip (chip) in their passports. These are found in the London, Peterborough and Glasgow offices.

Holders of both version 1 e-passports and the new version 2 e-passports will be able to use the passport readers. Customers wanting to view their version 2 e-passport may need some assistance until the existing e-passport readers are updated with information on how to read these type of passports.

This service is available to casual callers. It is a stand alone self service facility available to with a United Kingdom (GBR) e-passport or United Kingdom new style e-passport (version 2). Members of the public who want to view the information will be directed to the reader kiosk in the public area of one of the HM Passport Office public counters.

There will be no charge for this service.

Who can use the e-passport readers

This service is available to anyone who possesses a United Kingdom (GBR) biometric passport.

Staff wishing to view the microchip in their own or family and friends’ United Kingdom (GBR) biometric passports should ensure that this is done in their own time (for example, tea breaks and lunch breaks). Line managers will be responsible for ensuring that staff adhere to the guidance. Any staff member not adhering to these procedures or seen to be misusing the equipment will be dealt with under HM Passport Office disciplinary procedures.

Foreign (non-GBR) biometric passports

HM Passport Office biometric passport readers are not configured to read any details in foreign passports.

What you should do if your chip fails to read

If you’re travelling urgently

If the reader fails to read the chip in the passport, you should contact the reception/enquiry desk for further advice/instruction. Reception will then advise you to call the HM Passport Office advice line (0300 222 0000) so that an appointment can be made (if travelling urgently).

If you’re not travelling urgently

Customers who are not travelling urgently are advised to return the passport with the faulty chip to the issuing office together with a letter explaining how the fault was discovered.

If your passport chip fails to be read at a border control, this alone should not prevent you entering another country.

The criteria for admission into an overseas country is determined by the country you’re travelling to, so if you have any concerns you should check with the relevant authorities (embassy or consulate). You can then apply to HM Passport Office for a replacement passport when you return from your trip. You will be informed of the outcome of the investigations by letter once the chip has been examined and the correct diagnosis of any potential fault has been found.