The UK Passport Service (UKPS) is to roll out a new online electronic passport application service (EPA), due to go live by September 2004.
The system will check data online and take payment details before passing the information on to the Government Payments Engine, built by the Office of the e-Envoy, and to a new back office system to handle electronic applications, built by Siemens Business Services.
The UKPS plans to begin development of the EPA in early 2003, and is currently looking for a supplier to develop the web-based front end.
A Home Office spokeswoman said the new system would be "far more integrated than the previous system, which treats submissions like paper applications".
"What we are envisaging is electronically submitting the application, but you will have to send other documents separately," she said.
The EPA system will allow users to print a summary form from their home computer, which they then sign and return to UKPS with any additional necessary documents.
The agency does have an existing, but basic, online system. Although the form can be completed online it is printed out and returned to the applicant's address so that they can sign it and return it with documents and payments.
In the longer term the UKPS plans to introduce passport smartcards, as revealed by vnunet.com in February. The cards - due by 2006 - will include biometrics such as iris scans or fingerprints. Scanning would take place at Post Offices or other centres.
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