Identity documents are provided with an MRZ and an RFID chip

The ICAO 9303 international aviation standard applies to most passports and ID cards issued by countries worldwide to their residents.

Machine Readable Zone (=MRZ)

MRZ stands for Machine Readable Zone, which means it is specifically designed to be read digitally. The font for this is OCR-B. This font is specifically designed for digital character recognition. OCR therefore stands for Optical Character Recognition.

The MRZ can be read via different optical techniques. The most common are the Half Page technique and Full Page technique. Nowadays, with the advent of mobile systems, the MRZ and RFID chip of identity documents can also be read using special Apps.


The MRZ contains data that are also listed on the document, such as:

  • Document type (type of document on which the MRZ is listed P, I, A, C, etc)
  • Names (Last name followed by 2 fillers and the first name(s))
  • Date of birth, Date of issue (Date in YYMMDD format)
  • Gender (M/F/< for Male , Female, Unknown)
  • Document number (Unique document identification number)
  • Nationality holder, country of issue (both as 3-letter ISO code)
  • Personal number (to be freely used/filled in by publisher)

For example, the MRZ does not include where a person lives.


The reading of the various elements of the MRZ can be checked for first-line errors using the following method:

  • • Check numbers (special numbers that contain a checksum over parts of the data)


A passport or ID card with an RFID chip is also called E-Passport or E-ID. It uses "contactless smart card" technology with a microprocessor (chip) and antenna embedded in the document. The application on, and content of the chip, are standardized in the international ICAO 9303 standard.


An application runs on the RFID chip which handles the secure communication. This way, it is possible to read the data stored in groups. Some of the most known and used groups are:

  • MRZ Copy (a copy of the printed MRZ on the document)
  • Passport photo / Face image (usually the photo as it appears on the document in color as well)
  • Biometric information (such as fingerprints)
  • Control / Authentication information (groups for various control and authentication purpose)

Communication with the chip can be through various levels of security. The contents of the chip can also be controlled by various methods. Some of these are:

  • BAC - Basic Access Control (Securing communication between chip and ID Scanner via encryption)
  • EAC - Extended Access Control (Further authentication of chip and ID Scanner with stronger encryption)
  • SAC - Supplemental Access Control (Supplement for BAC, will replace future BAC).
  • PA - Passive Authentication (Control, via signed hashes, of the data groups on the chip)
  • AA - Active Authentication (Protection against chip cloning via secret private key)