Currently (July 2023), 171 countries have passports with a contactless (NFC) chip — also called ePassports or biometric passports — which means that those passports can be read with ReadID.
This number has grown continuously since their introduction in the 1980s, making the adoption of ePassports almost universal. For example, Mongolia, Bahrain, Jamaica, and the Seychelles recently introduced ePassports.
Many countries also have identity cards and residence cards with the same ICAO-compliant chip. Please check our blogs on European identity cards and residence permits for more details on these types of identity documents.
The history of ePassports
Although passports are required to follow the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard, countries have some choice as to which part of this standard they implement. In 2016 there was an important deadline: newly issued passports must be so-called Machine-Readable Travel Documents (MRTD).
This meant that passports must have two lines at the bottom on the first page, including the holder’s name, date of expiry, date of birth, and the issuing country. The chip, however, is not yet a mandatory part of the ICAO standard. Of course, many countries have been including the chip for many years already, to improve the trustworthiness of their passports. It also allows their citizens to use e-gates at airports. In the EU, the chip has been mandatory since 2004.
What countries issue ePassports?
To the best of our knowledge, there is no single correct public overview of exactly which countries have identity documents with ICAO compliant chips, and certainly not with the specific features (for example, what cloning mechanism) of those chips in different generations of identity documents. The overviews we did find of what countries have ePassports often had mistakes. For some regions it is simple: all EU countries must have ePassports. But for some, the information isn't so readily available.
So we have started collecting this data ourselves, leveraging our ReadID Analytics anonymous data logging tooling. We collect data on which identity documents have chips, the features of those chips and whether or not ReadID can successfully verify them. We get this data from our free public personal-use app ReadID Me and our live SaaS deployments. No personal data is collected, only anonymous meta data from NFC transactions such as chip variants etc is collected.
Based on our study, we know there were 171 countries and regions issuing ePassports as of June 2023. This was more than 2.5 times as much as at the end of 2008. ReadID has a large default list of country signing certificates with which we can verify the authenticity of most ePassports. This default list enables ReadID to verify passports from 116 countries (68% of all countries with ePassports), including all EU countries. Our default list misses some country signing certificates because some countries do not publish them. Please be aware there are workarounds, customers can contact our support department for details.
ReadID Worldwide Ordinary Passport Overview
In the map below we have plotted ReadID’s coverage of passports, focusing on ‘ordinary’ passports (as opposed to, for example, diplomatic passports). Ordinary passports make up the vast majority of passports. We have specified the following categories:
- Read & verify (Dark green): ReadID can read and verify these passports. We have all the needed country signing certificates by default.
- Read & partially verify (Middle green): ReadID can read these passports, but the default country signing certificate list is incomplete.
- Read only (Light green): ReadID can read these passports, but we do not have the required country signing certificates for verification.
- No chip (Light grey): These passports have no NFC chip.
India announced it would start issuing ePassports for ordinary citizens at the end of 2022, but at the time of writing we have not encountered them yet.
How did we plot these maps?
The maps above were generated by combining data from public and non-public sources, our own testing, and ReadID Analytics data that was collected until 15 June 2023.
Please also check our blog post on ReadID coverage of European ID cards, residence permits, and cloning detection mechanisms for more information on different types of electronic identity documents and their security features. Finally, if you’ve spotted any mistake (it can be an error in how we generate the map or in the underlying data), then please contact us at email@example.com.
Do you want to know the possibilities of NFC identity verification in your country, or do you have questions about this blog post?