Feb 21, 2020

A question we often get is which European countries have identity cards with NFC chips that ReadID can read. The easy answer is: all identity cards that have ICAO chip logo.

The logo indicates an ICAO 9303 compliant NFC chip, the international standard for passport and identity cards from the UN. But that does not really answer the question, so we go one step deeper and describe which countries have those.

We zoom in on Europe, and specifically on the European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), UK and Switzerland, since these all follow the EU standards. Identity cards are in most cases considered as a travel document and they are standardized as part of the international ICAO 9303 standard that also specifies passports. But contrary to passports, this standard was not enforced by the EU. As a result, there are currently at least 86 different versions of identity cards in circulation in EU, some of which are also quite insecure.

This changed in August 2019 when the EU decided to strengthen and align the security features of the identity cards from the different member states. Regulation 2018/0104(COD) stipulates that all member states that issue identity cards have to make those ICAO 9303 compliant, including a machine-readable zone (MRZ) and an NFC chip with a face image.

Most European countries that introduced new generation identity cards already made sure that these had an ICAO compliant NFC chip. The new regulation will ensure that the countries that have older, less secure, identity cards, will also replace these in the coming years. Member states will have two years (till August 2021) to adopt this regulation and thus stop issuing non-compliant identity cards. Note that this regulation does not require member states to issue identity cards to their citizens, but if they do these have to be compliant.

Till January 2020, 26 out of 32 countries (EEA, UK, and Switzerland) have identity cards with an ICAO-compliant Machine Readable Zone. Among these 26 countries, 12 also have an ICAO-compliant contactless NFC chip. An identity card normally has a validity of 10 years. Some countries started issuing them less than 10 years ago, and therefore have both the compliant new versions and non-compliant old versions in circulation. These include Spain, Italy and Poland.

ReadID works with all ICAO-compliant identity cards in Europe. This means that ReadID can read the contactless chip of the identity cards from 12 countries, verify its authenticity, and check if it is a clone. The below map show which countries

  • Do not have identity cards (Grey)
  • Have ReadIDcompatible identity cards (Green)
  • Have identity cards without ReadID compatible NFC chip (Orange)
  • Have both newer compatible and older incompatible identity card (Green/orange striped)

With the enforcement of the above-mentioned Regulation 2018/0104(COD), the percentage of compatible identity cards will increase over time, both in the ‘mixed’ countries where the non-compliant identity cards will disappear and countries that will start issuing compliant identity cards. We would like to mention a few countries in particular:

  • Belgium started very recently issuing compliant identity cards
  • Norway has announced to introduce compliant identity cards
  • Germany has identity cards with NFC, but these are not ReadID compatible (yet)
  • Ireland has passport cards, comparable to identity cards.

There is basically no authoritative source of all identity documents worldwide, and certainly not a publicly available one that contains details on the contactless chip implementation. We combined knowledge from public sources, non-public sources, our own testing data and ReadID Analytics data to make this overview. ReadID Analytics contains anonymous logging information that we use to improve ReadID, including whether or not an MRZ scan or NFC read was successful and characteristics of the chip. There may be mistakes or missing information in the overview, and we provide this overview as-is, without any form of guarantee. We appreciate it very much if you let us know if you notice mistakes or outdated information via readid@innovalor.nl.

For customers and partners we have a whitepaper with more detailed information. Please contact your account manager if you are interested.