The simple answer is that it’s because the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – the global organisation that is responsible for settings standards for passports – recommends that they should be valid for no more than 10 years.
With regard to passport validity period ICAO states that –
Contracting States should normally provide that such passports be valid for a period of at least five years…Note 1 — In consideration of the limited durability of documents and the changing appearance of the passport holder over time, a validity period of not more than ten years is recommended.
Of course the question then becomes why ICAO has such a requirement!
In addition to the obvious reason that the biometric data on the passport (at a minimum, the photo) will be out of date after a period of time, the primary reason for expiring passports is likely to be that it allows the underlying technology to change without there being too many legacy passports in circulation.
The Ministry of External Affairs used to issue passports with 20 year validity in the mid-1990s. These passports were handwritten passports.
Currently the MEA is issuing Machine Readable Passports (MRP). A computer scan of a machine readable passport reads all the details of the passport at one go and the software can check out logic based checks on the information. Holders of these passports are requested to get a machine readable passport re-issued.
In addition, people change their residence frequently and the Residential Address becomes invalid on passports. Also, facial features of people change too. Keeping that in mind it is better that the period of validity is kept short to 10 years.
Expiring passports also reduces the number of stolen/lost/forged/etc., passports in circulation – both due to the expiry of those that are in circulation, but also by enforcing newer anti-forgery standards for new passports.
Passport like documents are subject to review periodically. Many people obtain passports just for the heck of it and after their demise; the data continue to remain in the system. At the time of renewal after 10 years, in case no re-issue/renewal application is received, then the concerned passport data becomes dormant and perhaps purged from the system after a set period.
What to do with the expired Indian passport?
You need to keep all your old passports with you even though they are expired. For validation purposes during VISA stamping or general evaluation, you would be asked to submit all your previous passports. Hence, it’s in the best interest to keep them safe at all times.
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