Dec 17, 2018

Many countries have passports with a chip - also called ePassports or biometric passports -which means that those passports can be read with ReadID. Some countries have identity cards and/or residence cards with the same ICAO-compliant chip.

First some background: although passports are standardized by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization, part of the UN), countries have a choice as to which part of this standard they implement. In 2016 there was an important deadline: passports now have to be machine readable. The term that is used for this is Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD) and it basically means having the two lines at the bottom of the first page of the passport with name, date of expiry, issuing country, etcetera. However, the chip is not yet a mandatory part of the standard. Of course, countries that want to improve the trustworthiness of their passports already have included the chip for many years.

Which countries?
To the best of our knowledge there is no good overview of which countries have ICAO compliant identity documents, and there is certainly not a public trusted source for this that also includes which specific features those chips have in the different generations of identity documents. There are some overviews of which countries have ePassports, but we find that these often contain mistakes. For some countries of course it is simple, for example all EU countries have ePassports.

We therefore have started collecting this data ourselves. This is part of our ReadID Analytics. We collect data on which identity documents have chips, the features of those chips and if ReadID can successfully verify them. We collect this data by logging this in our public demo app and sometimes also from production deployments, of course all anonymized.

In the below maps we distinguish countries that we do not have sufficient data for (gray), countries for which passports we have successfully read and verified the chips for (dark green) and countries with chips that we have read but not verified (light green). The latter is typically caused by their country certificates missing in our default trusted list for ReadID because those countries do not publish them. But there can also be other reasons, including that we’ve only seen forged identity documents.


Chipped Identity and residence cards
Identity cards and similar documents, including residence cards, can have an identical ICAO compliant chip as ePassports. This is relatively common in Europe, but less common outside Europe. With respect to identity cards and residence permits, the EU is implementing legislation making it obligatory to embed a contactless, ICAO-based, chip. This to reduce the diversity in identity cards and residence cards, and, of course, to make them more secure and thus prevent identity fraud. Since ICAO compliant identity and resident cards are less common outside Europe, we only show the coverage in Europe in the below map. The majority of European countries use (non-passport) identity documents that are ICAO compliant (green). The gray countries do not have an identity and/or residence card that is ICAO compliant, like for example the German identity cards. The German identity cards are based on the same security mechanisms but are not compliant, because of which ReadID currently does not support these.


How did we plot the above maps?
The above maps are generated using ReadID Analytics with data that has been collected for the past year with our publicly available ReadID demo app (client only), from 12 December 2017 till 13 December 2018. Since this data is collected via client side on the mobile phone, the logging data may be manipulated. To reduce this risk, we used thresholds before marking a country green. Especially for identity cards and residence permits it is not always clear from the document type what document it is, since identity cards typically have document type starting with a “I”, but in Italy this is “C” (which is also allowed in the ICAO specifications). In the above overview we therefore may have this wrong for some countries. The above maps do not provide nuances about which generations of identity documents in a country have chips. We do have data on this, but displaying this data in a blog post for the whole world would be undoable.

If you’d like us to provide more ReadID Analytics data on some specific detail in a future blog post, then please e-mail us on Please also check our blog post on cloning detection mechanisms. Finally, if you see a country in green or gray that you think should have a different color (it can be an error in how we generate the map or in the underlying data), then please contact us.

This blog post replaces an earlier blogpost from 16 March 2016.