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Spot checks on passport pics in NZ

The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs is trialling a new print-less passport photo system and doing ‘spot checks’ of existing passport providors’ competency in providing digital passport photos on SD or USB sticks.

NZ Post already has a monopoly on Proof of Age cards.

A pilot program involving New Zealanders renewing their adult passports will take place through July and August, but staff from DIA are reported to be already visiting stores requesting the service.

Photo retailers need to be fully prepared to be involved in the trial by being up-to-speed on the DIA’s technical and visual standards for passports. (Published at the end of this story.)

Independent  advice being circulated to New Zealand passport photo providors is:
– Staff should ask carefully what the customer needs the file for so the photo industry doesn’t get caught out;
– Provide the file exactly in between the parameters they give – so there is no question it could fail;
– Get the lighting and image exactly right to limit post-processing.

The new digital passport photos are only for adults renewing passports, and passport prints will continue to be required for new passports and children’s passports – as well as renewals where the applicant wears a headscarf or headband.

Traditional passport photo outlets have been warily watching moves by NZ Post Shops into the passport/ID business. Post stores already have a monopoly on supplying proof of age ID cards for 18-year-olds.

There’s a concern that if photo stores and pharmacies are ‘caught out’ in this trial, NZ Post will move in, already having a close working relationship with DIA.

The DIA and NZ Post are currently trialling ‘RealMe’, a proof-of-identity system using digital photographs, at 150 Post Shops. The software is already configured to take photos that meet the criteria for the NZ Passport Service and the British Home Office.

The software is capable of storing digital photos as part of an electronic record alongside biographic data, fingerprints and scans of documents.

‘My concern is that the Post Office or Post Shops as they are now called will become the sole providor of ID photos,’ said Tony Scott, Wairarapa Camera Services.

‘It should be noted that most Post Offices in New Zealand are now privately owned on a franchise basis.’

Sets of photos are being offered by NZ Post outlets at $20 for a set of 6 prints. A NZ Post spokesperson is quoted as saying said the main game wasn’t passport photos but rather DIA’s planned national identity verification scheme, iGovt. However, the two in no way seem mutually exclusive.

NZ Post is actively marketing its new system to banks and other organisations requiring proof of identity.

NZ DIA digital passport photo standards

The Department’s digital passport photo standards are largely similar to the standards for print photos. The full digital passport photo standards are below. All digital passport photos must meet these standards:
· Full colour;
· Photo must be less than 6 months old;
· Head centred with a clear gap around the sides and top of the head, including hair;
· Maximum size of head, including hair, must be 80% of photo;
· True image, not altered in any way;
· In focus, with no red-eye and no reflected light on the face;
· The background must be plain and light;
· Strong contrast between image and background;
· No shadows;
· Head straight to the camera;
· Eyes open;
· Mouth closed;
· Neutral expression, not smiling or frowning;
· No hair across your face or eyes as eyes must be clearly visible;
· Eyes must be clearly showing through glasses, with no reflection;
· No glasses with heavy-rimmed frames;
· No sunglasses, or glasses with tinted lenses that obscure your eyes;
· No head bands or head coverings.

NZ DIA technical photo requirements

In addition to digital passport photo standards, all digital photos must meet the following technical requirements:
· File type: Jpg or Jpeg;
· File size: Between 500kb and 10Mb;
· Dimensions: minimum 900 pixels wide x 1200 pixels high and maximum 4500 pixels wide x 6000 pixels high;
· Aspect ratio: 3:4 (Width: Height ratio in portrait).

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