This subject might not make much sense for some of you, but it’s worth a read if you’re planning a vacation and if you are crossing borders, especially with a Non-Machine Readable Passport.
Every single day, millions of passengers passing through international borders at various airports, land crossings and seaports carry passports and other travel documents to fulfill entry and exit requirements.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the main international law instrument regulating civil aviation matters world wide planned specific standards in December 2014 to strengthen security to ensure efficient border crossings with the effective implementation of Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs). A phase-out was prepared that any foreign governments complying with it’s regulations not to issue visas or grant entry for people traveling with non-machine readable passports (‘handwritten’ passports or documents) after November 24 2015. It effectively meant that all non-machine readable passports should be out of circulation by this date. People from various regions of the world flocked to their passport offices for renewal from non-machine readable to machine readable passports, some understood its importance, while others ignored it or simply didn’t understand what was going around.
Now, here’s the turning point, while the “postcard famous destination”, the Maldives recently welcomed it’s 750,000th tourist of the year, the border control agents at the airport continue denying entry and transit for passengers arriving who are not in possession of machine readable passports. Five to fifteen passengers a week is a sufficient ballpoint figure to represent the number of people arriving the Maldives without a machine readable passport every week. Some of the major airlines contributing passengers to this situation are flydubai, Qatar Airways and Emirates. Indeed, it is a sad situation for both, the Maldivian authorities as well as for the tourists carrying non-machine readable passports who have planned, booked and paid a lot of money for a holiday at one of the world’s most expensive holiday destinations.
So, what type of passport do you have? I am sure reading this article will help you understand how important it is for you to know why you should have a machine readable passport.
The Machine readable zone (MRZ) at the bottom of the data page contains compulsory identity elements (Eg: the bearer’s personal & passport details) which are read by special readers at airports. The passenger information on the data page can also be read by the human eye.
Note: All Maldivian passports are machine readable as of the time this article was written, and the usage of a 90’s Maldivian passport image in this article does not necessarily represent an advise for Maldivian nationals to seek machine readable passports.