As a signatory member of the Schengen agreement, Malta introduced new biometric passports with digital facial imaging and fingerprints scan biometrics recorded on a contactless microchip, also known as ePassports.
The digital capture process was implemented first in Malta a few months ago and gradually extended to Malta’s representative offices abroad, including Australia recently. The process implies that applicants living in Australia would have to report in person to the Malta High Commission in Canberra or the Consulates in Melbourne and Sydney. Alternatively, applicants may renew their passport while in Malta as close to its expiry date as possible.
At its October meeting, the MCCV Council discussed the implications of the new passport issuing and renewal process on Maltese citizens in Australia living in places other than Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Two practical suggestions were made to do away with the need for the applicant to travel to one of these cities to comply with the process.
It was suggested that a High Commission or Consulate officer could travel with the necessary digital capture equipment to the other state capital cities and large towns in Australia.
The other suggestion is for the Maltese Government to enter into an arrangement with the Australian federal government or state governments in Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, and Northern Territory (or an appropriate government agency, such as, the Police force) to provide the electronic capture services on its behalf. It should be noted that many years ago the Australian Government authorised Australia Post as its agent to receive passport applications and, more recently, capture digital images of applicants for ePassports on its behalf.
At the MCCV Annual General Meeting on 27 October, the Consul-General for Victoria, Mr Charles Mifsud confirmed that the digital scanning equipment is not portable. In response to a specific question concerning asking the police in Australia to take fingerprints on behalf of the Maltese Government, Mr Mifsud said that he was not in a position to say whether the police would help out with this. He explained that he does not have enough experience to be able to decide on this issue of using the police.