The 24 November 2015 deadline: what is it all about?

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.

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 country.

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.