The biometrics are part of a larger arc of tightening security with identification documents as people have become more mobile over the last century, a trend that intensified after the 9/11 attacks.
The new computer-chip pass-ports are based on an international standard set in May by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency.
The new passports will use facial recognition technology contained on encrypted computer chips similar to those found in so-called smart cards.
"What was required was a globally interoperable biometric -- one biometric that could be used worldwide and can be read worldwide," said Denis Shagnon, spokesman for the organization.
Under the new standards, countries would also be allowed to add additional biometric technologies to the passports, like fingerprints or iris scans. Shagnon said the organization selected facial recognition technology because it was the most reliable in the tests.
"It's very user-friendly. It's unobtrusive," he said.
The International Labor Organization, another US agency, has recently set a biometric standard for identity documents for the 1.2 million workers that are employed on ships worldwide.
The new identity cards for maritime employees use fingerprint data and photographs stored digitally in what is known as a two-dimensional bar code. The densely packed bar codes can be scanned both horizontally, like those on supermarket products, and vertically, so they are able to store much more information.
Some state governments use two-dimensional bar codes on the backs of their drivers' licenses to store the text printed on the front of the card.