One question we often get is which European countries have identity cards with NFC chips that ReadID can read. If you have one in your hand then checking if it has an NFC chip is easy: simply look for the ICAO chip logo.
This logo can also be found on ePassports and indicates an ICAO 9303-compliant NFC chip. ICAO 9303 is the UN’s international standard for passports and identity cards and contains necessary guidelines on the implementation of NFC chips into identity documents.
History of identity cards in Europe
We focus here on identity cards in Europe, and specifically on the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), the UK and Switzerland, as these countries all follow EU standards. Identity cards are considered travel documents, and as a result they have a standardised lay-out, similar to passports. But contrary to passports, the EU did not enforce usage of the ICAO 9303 standard for identity cards until 2019. As a result, there are currently at least 86 different versions of identity cards in circulation in EU, and some countries issue quite unsecure identity cards. To illustrate this, the UK decided to no longer accept EU identity cards from 1 October 2021 because of concerns with fake EU identity cards. Please note the UK does not differentiate between secure identity cards, with a ICAO 9303 NFC chip, and unsecure identity cards.
However, in August 2019 the EU decided to strengthen and standardise security features for identity cards from the different member states. Regulation (EU) 2019/1157 stipulates that all member states must follow the ICAO 9303 standards when issuing identity cards including an NFC chip with a face image inside.
Most European countries that introduced this new generation of identity cards already made sure that these had an ICAO compliant NFC chip before this new regulation came into effect. The new regulation ensures that countries with older and less secure identity cards will also replace these in the coming years. Member states had two years (until August 2021) to adopt the regulation, and stop issuing non-compliant identity cards.
Note that the regulation does not mean that member states are obliged to issue identity cards to their citizens, but if they do, the identity cards have to be compliant.
Which countries have identity cards that are compatible with ReadID?
In June 2023, 29 out of the 32 countries including the EEA, UK, and Switzerland had identity cards with an ICAO-compliant Machine-Readable Zone. Among these 29, 24 also had an ICAO-compliant NFC chip. Identity cards are normally valid for 10 years. Some countries started issuing them less than 10 years ago, so they have both the compliant and non-compliant versions in circulation. These are present in Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Poland's identity cards.
ReadID works with all ICAO-compliant identity cards in Europe. This means that ReadID can read the contactless chip of the identity cards from 24 countries, verify their authenticity, and check for clones, except the French ID cards issued after March 2021 and the Slovak identity cards issued after 2022. They are PACE only documents and can only be read by ReadID Android, not ReadID iOS, due to iOS platform restrictions. The map below shows which countries:
- Read & verify (Dark green): ReadID can read and verify these identity cards. We have all the needed country signing certificates by default.
- Read & verify Android only (Light green): ReadID can read and verify these identity cards with Android mobiles.
- No chip (Light grey): These identity cards have no (supported) contactless chip.
- No identity card (Dark grey): These countries do not issue identity cards.
Through the above-mentioned Regulation (EU) 2019/1157, the percentage of compatible identity cards will increase over time. The ‘mixed’ countries have stopped issuing non-compatible identity cards, and they will expire in the coming years, leading to an expected increase in compliant identity cards. We would like to mention a few countries in particular:
- Belgium, Cyprus, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Croatia, Czech, Estonia, Romania, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, and Germany are the ‘mixed’ countries have both ReadID compatible and non-compatible identity cards.
- Germany has just started to issue ICAO compliant identity cards since 2 August 2021, which can be read and verified by ReadID. Before that, the identity cards already had an NFC chip, but it was not an ICAO 9303 compliant chip. Therefore, ReadID cannot read those older identity cards (yet).
- The Netherlands has released a newer version of identity cards on 2 August 2021, which removes the citizen service number (BSN) from the machine readable zone (MRZ) and includes it in a QR code on the back side of the identity cards.
- French ID cards issued after March 2021 and Slovakian ID cards issued after December 2022 are PACE only documents. Their PACE implementation is incompatible with ReadID's iOS PACE work around, due to iOS platform restrictions. Thus, French and Slovakian new ID cards can be read and verified using ReadID Android SDKs, but not iOS SDKs.
- Ireland has passport cards, comparable to identity cards.
How did we create this coverage map?
There is no single authoritative source of all identity documents worldwide, and certainly not a publicly available source that contains details on NFC 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 chip characteristics and whether or not an MRZ scan or NFC read was successful. There is no personal data stored within ReadID Analytics, only anonymous meta data from NFC transactions from our free personal-use app ReadID Me and SaaS transactions.
We provide this overview as-is, without any form of guarantee. We appreciate it if you let us know if you notice mistakes or outdated information via email@example.com.
If you’d like access to a list of countries and some more details, then we have a summary available that you can download. We also have a more detailed whitepaper available for our customers and partners.