Polish Language Blog

Polish Biometric Passports Posted by on Mar 31, 2009 in Culture

Tomorrow is the first of April and we all know what that means. Prima aprilis! The news will be even more full of bologna than on an ordinary day. Personally, I’m not a fan of April Fools’ Day. As far as I’m concerned, this silly tradition should be abolished. And I’m sure many people share my sentiment.

So, I am going to share with you a piece of absolutely true news. No prima aprilis here.

The other day I went to pick up my passport at Urząd Wojewódzki. Nothing unusual in that, except that it’s my third passport in about five months. The ladies at the passport office are getting to know me and the details of my life pretty well.

So when I was picking up my passport number three, the clerk said “it will make you very happy to know that next year we’ll start issuing paszporty z odciskami palców (passports with fingerprints) as well.”
Anna: Is that true?
Clerk: Absolutely. We’re all having special training this summer on how to do it.
Anna: So I guess you will be seeing me again in a few months then?
Clerk: Technically, you won’t need to replace your passport right away. You can wait until its normal expiration date. But I’m sure many countries will require those fingerprints for visa free travel.

You see, Polish passports already are machine readable and biometric. Right now only the photo is coded biometrically. The chip is stuck in the back cover, I think. (Because that’s the part the lady hacked off with scissors on my “old” passport.) And those are the new style Polish passports.

There are about three kinds currently in use. And maybe more, because I’m not really an expert on the subject. I’m just telling you what I normally see when traveling. The old style passports, issued before the year 2000 (or maybe before 2004?), have dark blue covers. When Poland joined the EU, “Unia Europejska” was added to the front. The cover changed to red and a multitude of languages appeared inside.

The biometric passports with chips are just like the ones before, except that the little rectangle thingie symbol was added to the front cover. These are the passports that allow their holders to travel to Canada bez wizy (without a visa). All others need to apply for a Canadian visa in advance. Or get a biometric passport, whichever is easier, I suppose.

Several people I talked to seem to believe that the upcoming passports with fingerprints will bring Poland one step closer to being included on a visa waiver list to the US. Ha! Dream on, people! As if!

I thought it would be fun to find out just when Poles might be able to travel to the US on a visa waiver program. The official line is that the current policy will be reviewed sometime in 2011, or somesuch. So I started to make phone calls (how did we ever manage to live without skype out, huh?) and through a friend of a friend of a friend was referred to a high ranking official who made the following comment: “Are you kidding me? Look at what happened in the UK! The minute you guys don’t need visas anymore, a million of you will land in Chicago!”

And I wish this was a prima aprilis żart (April Fools’ Day joke), but sadly, it is not.

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  1. Elijah Moore:

    Well I don’t see a problem with that LOL. I love ludzi z polski and the polki are boskie so i say welcome to the US. I don’t see the big deal.

    P.s. This is not an april fool’s joke

  2. russ:

    A lot has been written by security experts about the new passports: they’re easier to forge than the governments want to believe, e.g. see:

    And they present various risks to us (basically broadcasting our personal info to anyone nearby with the right equipment to listen to the passport).
    E.g. see:

    Like airport security, it seems to be an expensive boondoggle that doesn’t actually make anyone safer.

  3. Anna:

    Elijah – Thanks! 🙂

    Russ – I TOTALLY agree with you!

  4. New Passports:

    Excellent post with valuable information.

  5. eli:

    The US will not wave Polish citizens from a visa easily – because it makes a lot of money on visas…and the hell with real friendly nations!