San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is slated to be the first U.S. airport with the ability to accept electronic passports. Machines that scan passports embedded with computer chips will be installed in time to meet an October 26 deadline ordered by Congress.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is distributing the e-passport readers to SFO and 32 other airports around the country in continued efforts to increase the security of international travel.

According to San Francisco International Airport traffic reports, over 8 million international passengers flew in and out of SFO during the first six months of 2006 – a 4.3 increase from the same period one year earlier. Total airport traffic (domestic and international) increased 1.1 percent during the same time frame.

San Francisco International was among the test sites when the e-passport system was piloted this past spring.

E-passports, embedded with a chip that contains a traveler’s photograph and personal data, are designed to make it more difficult for people to use fake documents when entering the U.S. – or any other country. The Department of State began issuing electronic passports to the public in August.