The approaching 24 November 2015 deadline
is increasingly discussed at MRTD working meetings and conferences. It is also
being mentioned by the media. With November 2015 only two years away, the time
will fly by quickly.
The professional traveller identification
community, however, is not always entirely clear what meeting the deadline
involves. Official references written in technical legalese are not easy to
interpret and understand. Questions abound. What is the November 2015 deadline
all about? Why is complying with Standard 3.10.1 of Annex 9 so important? What
happens if a Member State does not comply with the deadline? Are there any good
practices that can be implemented to make meeting the deadline easier? Is any
assistance or technical advice available from ICAO?
This page is primarily for national
passport issuing authorities because they play a central role in meeting the
deadline. In a broader sense, it informs the global traveller identification
community who need to know what the deadline requires and how to meet it. This
page provides a practical and simple overview of the main issues related to the
deadline, and a few sources of useful reference.
The 24 November 2015 deadline: what is it
The 24 November 2015 deadline comes from
from Standard 3.10.1 in Annex 9 — Facilitation. ICAO Standards and Recommended
Practices (SARPs) are contained in Annexes to the Chicago Convention, the main
international law instrument regulating civil aviation matters globally. Annex 9
— Facilitation contains SARPs related to border controls and inspection
formalities, including MRTDs.
The deadline refers to non-machine readable
passports (non-MRPs). Annex 9 — Facilitation Standard 3.10.1 reads as follows:
‘[f]or passports issued after 24 November 2005 and which are not machine
readable, Contracting States shall ensure the expiration date falls before 24
November 2015’. This effectively means that all non-machine readable passports
should be out of circulation by 24 November 2015.
Standard 3.10.1 is best understood in
conjunction with Standard 3.10, which stipulated the 1 April 2010 deadline for
the issuance of ICAO-compliant machine readable passports (MRPs). As Standard
3.10 has been generally implemented universally, the Standard 3.10.1 deadline
for removing non-MRPs from circulation by 24 November 2015 presents the next
important universal deadline for MRTD compliance.
Defining what makes a MRP ICAO-compliant
presents some technical complexity that is beyond the scope of this webpage.
However, in order to ensure that no non-MRPs are left in circulation after 24
November 2015, it is important to understand the meaning of a ‘not machine
readable’ passport. Some obvious instances of ‘not machine readable’ include a
passport that is handwritten, it has no Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) or includes
another family member in addition to the holder of the passport. Some other cases can be more
difficult to spot, such as errors in MRZ and the biodata page, which require a
closer look by an expert assessor. But in short, in order to be
‘ICAO-compliant’ and ‘machine readable,’ a passport has to fully comply with
the specifications of Document 9303, Part 1,Volume 1. If it does not, the
passport should be out of circulation by 24 November 2015.
An important but often forgotten point. The
requirement that non-MRPs expire by 24 November 2015 applies to all types of
passports: Ordinary, Diplomatic and Service. However, it does not apply to
temporary travel documents or passports of limited validity in cases of
emergency, which usually have a short validity period and are issued by
consulates to distressed nationals so that they could return to their home
ICAO Standards are legally binding for all
ICAO Member States. However, there are instances when a Member State may be
unwilling or unable to comply with a specific Standard, either for a specific
period of time or indefinitely. Departures from international Standards are
regulated by Article 38 of the Chicago Convention. Generally, when a State is
unable to comply with a specific Standard, it has an obligation to ‘give
notice’ to the Council of ICAO by ‘filing a difference’ under Article 38. A
difference is filed by the State using a prescribed form that is available from
the ICAO Secretariat.
Does Standard 3.10.1 call for obligatory
biometric passports (ePassports)?
The answer is straightforward: no, it does
not! 24 November 2015 is not a deadline for ePassports. No ICAO Standard for
the introduction of ePassports exists so far. Some States and industry partners
appear to mistakenly believe that the 2015 date is a deadline for the
introduction of ePassports. It is a relatively widespread misconception that
needs to be dispelled.
A Standard on obligatory ePassports may
become a requirement some day in the future—if ICAO Member States agree to it.
But nothing is foreseen in the immediate future. Even if political will emerged
universally to elevate ePassports to an obligatory ICAO Standard, the
technicalities of multilateral policy making would take quite a few years until
such a new Standard is adopted.
Compliance with the 24 November 2015
deadline: current state of play and need for further outreach
The likelihood of universal compliance with
the deadline is not very high so far. Anecdotal evidence from the ICBWG and the
traveller identification industry suggests a ‘considerable’ number of non-MRPs
in circulation that will expire after 24 November 2015. Recognizing the need
for reliable figures, the ICAO Secretariat
issued a State Letter EC6/3-12/70 to all ICAO Member States to raise
awareness and ensure States have adequate time to comply with the Standard.
The Letter, dated 31 December 2012,
provided a brief background of the issue, urged governments to invite their
citizens holding non-MRPs to apply for MRPs, and included a brief Questionnaire
to gather information on worldwide application of Standard 3.10.1.
The responses to the Questionnaire, while
moderately reassuring, are still too incomplete to provide a full picture. By
January 2014, about one-third of all ICAO Member States had replied with only
five indicating they were unable to comply with Standard 3.10.1 and meet the 24
November 2015 deadline. It is quite probable, however, that the States that did
not reply to the Questionnaire on time face far greater challenges in complying
with the deadline. In any case, more replies are needed to have a systematic
picture concerning compliance with Standard 3.10.1.
The State Letter and Questionnaire are
available online in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. All
Member States are encouraged to reply at their earliest convenience.
Potential consequences of non-compliance
with Standard 3.10.1
Consequences of non-compliance is not an easy topic to address. At this
stage, ICAO has no official position or information on the possible consequences
of not meeting the deadline. Therefore, any such debate is purely speculative.
However, given the importance of potential consequences, the Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group (ICBWG) has been
exploring possible scenarios in order to provide early warning and encourage
measures that would assist States with meeting the deadline.
While international law has no centralized
enforcement authority, States have a number of remedies they can resort to in
addressing non-compliance issues. One such measure is self-help, that is, a
State may apply corrective or preventive measures against another State that
does not comply with the provisions of international law. According to the
working group, other Member States may apply bilateral sanctions after 24
November 2015, for instance, refusing admittance to holders of non-MRPs or
making visa processing more onerous and costly because of associated risks.
While no official information has been submitted to ICAO so far, anecdotal
evidence suggests that a few major States are considering such an approach and
their border control officials have warned some visitors holding non-MRPs to
renew their passports before 24 November 2015.
If such sanctions were introduced and
applied, they would bring costs and inconvenience to holders of non-MRPs after
the deadline. Consequences might include financial losses, increased costs,
delays, refused entries, cancelled trips
Given the uncertainty and potential high
costs to the holders, a good strategy for mitigating the risk is to make the public
aware of the 24 November 2015 deadline and encourage the timely renewal of
Recommended practical steps
Reasons for non-compliance differ and every
Member State faces a different set of challenges in meeting the November 2015
deadline. While no one solution fits all, a few guiding principles emerged in
discussions by the MRTD programme and ICBWG that may provide some food for
thought to Passport Offices in achieving
compliance with Standard 3.10.1. They include:
- The first
step in managing the challenge is recognizing you have a problem that must be
solved. Is your State able to meet the
24 November 2015 deadline?
- If your
State is unable to meet the 24 November 2015 deadline, it is important to put
together a constructive plan of action. Most problems can be solved—except
those that have never been addressed.
- Assess the
extent of the problem. How many non-MRPs in your State expire after 24 November
2015? What is their expiration date?
ICAO by responding to the Questionnaire sent with State Letter EC6/3-12/70.
Upon request, the document is available to government agencies from the ICAO
- File a
difference with ICAO concerning Standard 3.10.1 as required by Article 38 of
the Chicago Convention. Differences are usually filed by the national civil
- The most
important step - carry out an information campaign to inform your citizens
about the 24 November 2015 deadline. Encourage them to renew their
negative messages and do not focus on potential difficulties to holders of
non-MRPs. Instead, stress the importance of meeting the deadline and how
compliance with the ICAO Standard is your country’s international obligation.
Stress to your citizens that travel on ICAO-compliant machine-readable
passports will facilitate their journey and make it more secure.
- If practicable,
implement facilitated processing for non-MRP renewal applications, such as a
separate counter with shorter waiting times, a reduced renewal fee or similar
such measures, which are entirely at the discretion of the issuing authority.
- Keep an
eye out for any updates on the 24 November 2015 deadline on this webpage
Government officials are welcome to contact
the ICAO Secretariat for inquiries and
further advice concerning the 24 November 2015 deadline:
Jitu Thaker, Technical Officer, Facilitation,
For inquiries related to filing a
difference to Standard 3.10.1; responses to the Questionnaire enclosed with the
State Letter EC6/3-12/70.
Erik Slavenas, Programme Officer, ICAO
For any other inquiries or information and
assistance requests related to the implementation of Standard 3.10.1, including
copies of the State Letter or filing a difference form.