Handwritten passports will no longer be valid for international travel with effect from November 25 2015, as directed by the government of India for its citizens. Handwritten passports were issued before 2001 and were easy to tamper with. These passports have a validity of 20 years.
Citizens holding hand-written passports are required to replace them with immediate effect with tamper-proof, machine-readable passports that feature barcodes. The government has taken this step following the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) recommendation to include biometric information in machine-readable documents.
According to an estimate in October 2015, approximately `2.5 lakh hand-written passports are in circulation in India. If these are not re-issued as machine-readable passports by November 25 2015, they would be considered as invalid. Foreign governments could deny visa or entry to Indian travellers holding a hand-written passport starting November 25 2015. This decision could impact international travel in the short term.
In the wake of increasing terrorist attacks, international travel is considerably more high-risk. In addition to Indian government regulations, host countries are also seeking more foolproof systems for verification of all travel documents. Including biometric information in passports is the first step in this direction.