By In2EastAfrica - Tue Apr 12, 3:28 pm East African Community The East African passports, the regional travel documents valid only within the five EAC member states are being upgraded to become internationally recognized identification papers. But, according to the Communications Officer at the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, Mr Richard Owora-Othieno, the passports currently in use in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are not available in Rwanda and Burundi, the two newcomer member states in the regional body. The EAC passports are issued only in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Burundi and Rwanda are expected to start processing them from 2012, said Mr Othieno, adding that international communities are now ready to accept the documents on condition that they are machine readable. Plans are therefore at an advanced stage to upgrade EAC passports to travel documents of international standards. At the moment, people have to wait for some necessary logistics such as phasing out non-digital passports and re-printing of the new ones with biometric, electronic and concealed, machine-readable computerized security marks. The new passports will also have to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. The ICAO standardizes and publishes Doc 9303, Machine Readable Travel Documents, the technical standard for passports machine-readable passports worldwide. Textual form is written as strings of alphanumeric characters, printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition. Mr Othieno said once the East African passports are upgraded to international standards, the next step would be to make them replace national passports. Previously, the details of the applicant for the EAC passports were to be legible through computers while the signatures and the holders photographs would now be acquired and digitally stored in both regional and international database. The old model of the EA passport introduced nearly a decade ago, requires the holders personal data to be typewritten or hand written on it. The passport aimed to ease border crossing within the three member states (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and also served as a six-month visa permit. But the document has not been popular among the residents as most of them preferred the ten-year document issued by their departments of immigrations, against the EACs five-year document, not recognized internationally.