Machine readable passports have finally been phased out and will no longer be recognised as valid travel documents in Rwanda.
According to an official announcement from the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration (DGIE), the development took effect from June 28, 2022.
"The Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration would like to remind the general public that the Rwanda Machine Readable Passport (old passport) has been phased out and ceased to be recognised as a travel document with effect from June 28," the announcement read.
All Rwandans who wish to travel to countries where a passport is needed, are required to have the new Rwanda East Africa Passport (EAC) e-Passport.
However, returning citizens with valid Machine Readable Passports will be allowed to return to Rwanda.
In June 2019, the DGIE started the issuance of the e-Passports, a move that other East African countries including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have also embarked on.
An agreement between EAC member states targets that machine-readable passports are phased out within two years from the date of issuing of the first e-Passports.
In this respect, Rwanda's first deadline for the phase-out was June 27 last year.
However, with the global Covid-19 pandemic that led to lockdowns in several countries, the Rwandan Communities Abroad could not travel to the nearest Embassy to provide biometric data due to travel restrictions.
As a result, Rwanda extended the phase-out deadline for one year, until June 27, 2022.
In an earlier interview with The New Times, Lynder Nkuranga, the Director General of the DGIE highlighted some of the advantages of the e-Passport, including the fact that it raises the level of trust for Rwandans traveling since it is considered as the world standard travel document.
"Countries can authenticate and confirm the issuing authority of the e-Passport. E-Passport forgery is close to zero because of the embedded chip that contains biometric data of the bearer," she said.
She referred to the e-Passport as a secure digital travel document that can be digitally verified by other countries.
"The portrait and names written on the chip can be verified to confirm that the holder of the passport is the person whom he or she claims to be."
The document is also looked at as a step forward in the fight against cross-border crimes including terrorism since it uses advanced technology that ensures that travel documents are used by the legitimate persons and authorities.
Rwandans abroad can apply for both the national identity cards and e-Passports via the Irembo portal.
The development assists Rwandans living in foreign countries to get their East African e-Passports.
The applicants' biometric data is captured from the nearest Rwandan Embassy and be used for the processing of both ID card and e-Passport.
How much does it cost?
There are several categories of e-Passports. An ordinary one for minors valid for two-years costs Rwf25,000, while that of 5 years (with 50 pages) costs Rwf75,000.
An ordinary 10-year passport with 66 pages, costs Rwf100,000, a service passport with a 5-year validity costs Rwf15,000, and a diplomatic passport costs Rwf50,000.