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Guidelines for new passports set

New Swiss biometric passports will be introduced in March 2010, the government announced on Wednesday.

Requests for the new passports, which will have two digital fingerprints and a photo of the holder embedded in a microchip, can be filed after February 24.

The procedure has changed somewhat for obtaining the new version. A citizen must go in person to the authorities, typically at the municipal level, to submit his or her fingerprints and a digital photo. The earliest that can be done is March 1.

Requests for older passports can be made until February 15 at the latest.

That means there will be a gap of little more than a week in February when it will not be possible to order either the old or new version of Swiss passports. During the transition phase temporary passports will be issued.

Swiss voters approved the introduction of biometric passports by a very slim margin in May 2009 with 50.1 per cent of the electorate approving it. The new passports will allow visa-free travel to the United States.

The new passports will cost SFr140 ($138) for adults and will be valid for ten years. Passports for people 18 years old and under will cost SFr60 and will be good for five years.

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SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR