Retinal images, information chips and fingerprints can help stop identity theft Unique biological features of citizens - such as fingerprints and retinal images - are likely to be incorporated in new special administrative region (SAR) passports from 2007. Director of Immigration Lai Tung-kwok said yesterday that such biometric information could be contained with other information in a chip implanted under the passport cover. It would be part of passport security improvements in line with suggestions by the International Civil Aviation Organisation - which adopted a blueprint for the integration of biometric identification information into travel documents last year. Biometrics can identify a person by biological features using advanced computerised recognition techniques. It is believed that biometric-enhanced passports can speed up the passage of travellers through airport controls, improve aviation security and add protection against identity theft. Apart from adding biometrics, laser printing methods and polycarbonate - the material used in the smart identity card - will be used to make the data page of the new SAR passport. These technologies would enhance the security features and make passports more durable. 'We have completed an internal study [on the new features], but we still need to go through lots of procedures such as handing the report to the Security Bureau. Upon approval, we have to ask for funding and conduct open bidding [for the passport production],' Mr Lai said. 'We hope we can issue the new passport in 2007.' While the chips would increase the cost of the passports, he said it was too early to tell whether applicants would be charged more. Raymond Wong Wai-man, assistant director for information systems at the Immigration Department, said the United States required all passport-issuers that wanted citizens to enjoy visa-free access to the US to incorporate biometric technology in their passports from October 2005. Since the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, more than three million SAR passports have been issued. Gigi Wong Wing-chi, who will turn three next month, is the three millionth SAR passport holder. She received her passport and souvenirs including a trophy and book coupons yesterday. 'It [the SAR passport] is very convenient and the price is reasonable. [We] can apply for it by post,' her father, Wong Chun-chung, said when explaining why he wanted an SAR passport for his daughter. 'We want to travel with her,' Mr Wong said. 'But we have not yet decided where to visit.' Hong Kong passport-holders do not need visas for Mexico from September 18, taking the total number of countries or territories granting visa-free access to SAR passport-holders to 132.