(File pix) Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali during a recent press conference held at Bayan Lepas, Penang. Pix by Shahnaz Fazlie Shahrizal

KUALA LUMPUR: NEW prerequisites may be imposed on Malay-sians who habitually lose their passports.

In a proposed move to arrest the high number of lost passports, these repeat offenders could lose certain privileges.

It is understood that among “sanctions” that would be imposed is a shorter passport validity period.

Malaysian passports issued for a fee of RM200 are valid for five years.

The New Straits Times has learnt that the authorities are also mulling making it mandatory for habitual passport applicants to make their traveling plans known to the authorities prior to their departure.

In facilitating this, it is understood that these individuals will be listed in the “watch list” database.

Already, under newly revised rulings on lost passports, steeper fines will be imposed.

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, when asked on the matter, would only say that a certain “sanction” would be imposed on passport holders who frequently lost the document.

Their passports, he said, would come with “restrictions”.

Those applying for a new passport after losing theirs will be “investigated” by Immigration. This is how the department establishes if the applicant had been careless, or that there had been other “suspicious” circumstances behind the new application.

“Once a passport is reported lost, it will be cancelled and removed from the system immediately to prevent abuse.

“The chances of a stolen passport being reused, however, is low as we have the biometric system in place. Even if a person tries to change the details on a stolen passport, it will not match the biometric records. It is like DNA; the biometric system is the passport’s DNA,” he said.

It was reported that stolen Malaysian passports could fetch between RM100,000 and RM250,000 each on the black market.

Mustafar also revealed to the NST that fines for lost passports, which were proposed several months ago, had been approved and would be enforced before year-end. The department, he said, was updating its system to facilitate this.

If there are no changes to the proposed fines, those who lose their passport for the first time will be fined RM200. The second time it happens, it will be RM500. It is RM1,000 after that.

“We cannot disclose the date of implementation, we still need to look into several areas,” he said.

Mustafar said he wanted to make clear that these provisions introduced were not meant to punish but to remind Malaysians to be more responsible with their passports.

“There are those who lose it for the fourth time. It makes me wonder how this is possible.

“I asked one of them if he had turned this (losing his passport) into his hobby,” he said, adding that the enforcement of “restrictions” was partly a “precautionary measure” in the likelihood of them losing the document again.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, said Malaysian passports made up a significant portion of the 76 million passports worldwide that had been reported stolen or missing.

Under current arrangements, the Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database would be alerted to any lost Malaysian passports. This would facilitate the immediate cancellation and blacklisting of the documents.

Zahid had said that, in the first eight months of this year, 52,459 Malaysian passports had been reported stolen or missing.

That is almost 10 passports lost every hour.

The Malaysian passport has been tagged as the fourth most powerful in the world, along with those from Austria, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland, for providing its holders visa-free access to 156 countries.

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