New online service for SAR passports expected to attract 25pc of applications

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2007, 12:00am

Immigration chiefs expect a quarter of applications for SAR passports to be submitted through the internet after an online service begins today.

The new facility will initially be available only to people older than 18, but it may be extended to all age groups within a year.

Its introduction comes about 11 months after the new electronic passports - of which 420,000 have already been issued - were launched. The passports come with an embedded chip that stores information such as the holder's personal data and photograph.

About 2,000 applications are received each day.

The department's assistant director for information systems, Jacqueline Kwan Chan Suet-mui, said the security of personal data, which would be transmitted through the internet, was the main concern.

'All personal information will be encrypted after the applicants press the 'confirm' button and it cannot be decoded before reaching our servers,' she said. Mrs Kwan estimated that about 25 per cent of the application forms would be submitted online and most of them would be from youngsters.

She said it would take less than 20 minutes to fill in the forms and the service would particularly benefit those who studied abroad or who did not visit the city too often.

It would also benefit those too busy to apply in person.

Applicants are required to upload recent photographs on a plain white background, together with a scanned copy of their identity card and other supporting documents, before paying the passport fee - HK$370 for a 32-page passport and HK$460 for a 48-page document - by PPS, Visa or MasterCard.

The new passport has to be collected in person at the selected Immigration Office after 10 days' processing.

The department said it would introduce self-service kiosks at immigration offices next year for people who did not have computers for online applications.