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Passports have doubled in price with the introduction of microchips encrypted with people's photographs and personal details to boost security.

The new e-passports will be issued from today, and Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker says they will cost travellers more than twice the standard passport they are replacing.

He said the fees had been set to recover the full cost of implementing the new system.

The cost of a passport increases from $71 to $150 for an adult and from $36 to $80 for a child.

As well, law changes introduced this year mean a passport expires after five years instead of 10.

Almost no notice was given of the new fees, with the charges announced only yesterday afternoon, three hours before the close of the business day.

Internal Affairs said that was to avoid an unmanageable rise in the demand for passports.

E-passports are being introduced worldwide to meet international civil aviation regulations.

Mr Barker said the new document was intended to enhance security and protect the integrity of the New Zealand passport.

Over recent years there have been arrests internationally of people with fake New Zealand passports, notably in Thailand, while two suspected Israeli spies were caught here last year trying to obtain a New Zealand passport.

Green MP Keith Locke said the drive for digital photograph recognition on passports was coming from the United States and Britain.

"The electronic facial maps could be the thin end of the wedge," he said.

"What is to stop a future government adding biometric markers such as fingerprints and iris patterns, as is being projected in Britain, or other information?"

Internal Affairs passport manager David Philp has said no new personal material will be included on the microchip.

The chips will be "sealed" so no new data can be added to them.

Technology will also be incorporated to prevent the data being spied on.

While the e-passports will be capable of being used with face-scanning technologies, kiosks allowing that are still being tested here.

The US will require all people wanting visa-free access to use an e-passport by October next year.

* New Zealanders, Australians and many other foreigners will be able to use a single visa to visit both Thailand and Cambodia from April.

Thailand announced the move yesterday as a way to boost tourism in Southeast Asia.