Ten-year passports a step closer

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Last updated 17:13 29/05/2014

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Ten-year passports have come a step closer after a parliamentary committee called on the Government to review the current five-year validity period.

Prime Minister John Key and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne have both said they are open to a review that could include an increase to 10 years.

Key said today that he "wouldn't rule that out" when asked if the Government would support a return to 10-year passports.

"The general rule, when we went to five years, the belief was all countries would go there because of the security risks around 9/11," Key said.

"In fact, in reality, countries like the US and Australia and others have stayed at 10 years, the technology has improved quite a lot in recent years, so look, it's possible we'd see a move back to 10 years.

"The general view of officials has [recently] been if you really wanted to go to 10 you wouldn't be out of steps with other countries," Key said, adding he could understand if the public was "frustrated" by five-year passports.

In a response to a petition from Kyle Lockwood, the government administration committee said on the evidence that it heard new biometric passports reduced the risk of counterfeiting and identity fraud. The protection was sufficient for the period to be safely extended.

"We are not convinced that the reduction in detected fraudulent passports is a result of the shorter validity period," the committee said.

It said the international standard among countries that used biometric passports, such as Australia, France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom was 10 years.

Chairwoman Ruth Dyson said the select committee, which is split 50:50 between government and Opposition members, was unanimous.

"We were not convinced the security issues are any better with five years," she said.
"Technology has moved on."

The cost of transferring visas from one passport to another was also a valid reason for 10-year passports, and might partially offset the increased cost of the passport itself.

Right-leaning lobby group the Taxpayers' Union, which has lobbied for a change, welcomed the report.
It has criticised the Government for sitting on a $20.8 million surplus resulting from excessive passport charges.

Dunne said today he would seek advice from the Department of Internal Affairs on the practicalities of returning to a 10-year passport.

He also wanted advice on extending the current five years to five years and nine months to at least ensure five-year passports lasted for the full five years, given some countries required travellers' passports to have six months or more validity.

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“For any extension to a 10-year passport the Government would need assurance that such changes would not compromise the security and integrity for which New Zealand passports are currently recognised."

He had also asked for a briefing on current funding approaches and options to ensure any changes to fees were not unreasonable. 

- Stuff

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