SUVA, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- The new e-passports have been officially launched on Thursday in the Fijian capital of Suva with five primary school students being the first ones to receive their e-passports.
According to a government statement, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said at the launching ceremony that they are taking the next step to a sweeping digital government transformation, which would touch all corners of Fijian society, secure borders, uplift the economy and the lives of the people.
He said the new passport would benefit people at home and those travelling abroad, as they will consolidate security requirements at borders and ease travel at ports of entry around the globe.
"They contain a new range of security features that will make it much more difficult for people to enter the country illegally, establishing a more secure Fijian passport, bringing greater integrity to our immigration system," he said.
"So, we're not only making Fiji safer, we're making travelling easier. We're also setting Fiji up for wider visa-free status access around the world."
The prime minister said that the security feature of the current passports, in particular, are in need of updating to protect against forgery and identify theft and that was why the government is undertaking a transition from paper-based passports to e-passports.
Fijians can now fill in their application online for e-passports. And starting from Friday, the Immigration Department will begin processing applications dating back to February and will even be open on Saturdays to clear the backlog of applicants.
Fiji's Immigration Director Nemani Vuniwaqa said that applicants will be given an e-passport application ID number which will need to be presented at the Immigration Office.
A tentative schedule has also been released for capturing biometrics and facial images which is required for the new e-passport.
Normal processing of a passport will now cost 200 Fijian dollars (about 91 U.S. dollars) while urgent processing and emergency passports will be 275 Fijian dollars (about 126 U.S. dollars).
Fiji is the third country in the Pacific region to have the e-passport system now.