Map with pins & passport

The European Union Is Already Rolling Out Biometric National ID Cards for Travel and More

September 28, 2021 by HID Partner  Radek Matyasek

Until recently, over a billion people traveled within the European Union (EU) or crossed its external borders every year. This spurred a regulation that prompted strict and consistent identification measures designed to accurately verify and validate citizen identity to ensure ease of mobility between member states, while limiting terrorism and organized crime. Now, EU member states are scrambling to comply with Regulation (EU) 2019/1157, requiring its 450 million citizens and approximately 20 million non-EU citizens, who reside or work in the member states, to be equipped with safe, secure and reliable identification. Moreover, member states have agreements with several third-party countries, allowing EU citizens to travel using those same national identity cards.

The regulation contains five key components:

  1. National identity cards must meet minimum security features. These features, based on specifications developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), are common to machine-readable travel documents and ensure global interoperability.
  2. Biometric data — two fingerprints and a facial image of the card holder — are mandatory for EU national ID cards for ages 12 years and older.
  3. Existing ID card formats must be phased out within five years of August 2021. Cards that are not machine-readable will be phased out within two years from the date of application of the regulation, giving countries time to address the security gaps as quickly as possible.
  4. Member states must designate contact points for the implementation of the regulation.
  5. A data protection framework with specific data protection safeguards must be established.

Biometric Data Security and Privacy

For citizens wary of offering their biometric data, the regulation provides strong safeguards regarding who can access the data collected. “The biometric identifiers shall be collected solely by qualified and duly authorized staff designated by the national authorities responsible for issuing identity cards or residence permit, for the sole purpose of being integrated into the highly secure storage medium.”

In addition, the case for using biometrics for identification at international borders is well established. Countries and states are already using the technology to monitor who passes through their borders, while vastly decreasing processing time, allowing more travelers to pass through quickly, reducing staff labor and increasing traveler satisfaction.

Hand with zoomed in fingerprint

Proven Fingerprint Biometric Deployment

HID Global has already been supplying its fingerprint enrollment systems for the citizen ID enrollment scheme in one of the top five most populous countries in the EU, enabling that country to comply with the Regulation (EU) 2019/1157 mandates.

The HID DigitalPersona® 5300 fingerprint reader was designed to satisfy the high-volume requirements of large-scale civil ID enrollment and authentication, and was selected for numerous reasons including:

  • Proven compliance with the ICAO security requirements, as well as numerous standards and certifications, including GDPR
  • Advanced Presentation Attack Detection (PAD) technology for “spoof” detection, such as counterfeit fingerprint rejection
  • Durable glass platen and water resistance
  • Superior image quality compliant with the FBI PIV and FAP30 standards
  • Cost efficiency that is ideal for high-use environments
  • Software Development Kit (SDK) availability for fast, simple integration

What’s Next?

Clearly the use of biometric two-finger and facial image enrollment for a national ID card is a step up from having to carry and produce passports for travel and border access for numerous reasons, including speed, convenience, advanced security and fraud detection. These national ID cards are not confined to travel, however. With EU’s eIDAS mandate, the same ID documents already help businesses, citizens and public authorities carry out secure and seamless electronic interactions in use cases such as:

  • Access to public documents, such as birth certificates, medical certificates or reporting a change of address
  • Filing tax returns
  • Opening a bank account or applying for a loan
  • Accessing or storing medical records and prescriptions
  • Verifying age
  • Facilitating travel, such as renting a car or checking into a hotel

As a next step, the European Commission wants to develop an app that would contain the digital version of the national ID card — the “wallet” — which they’ll start testing in October of 2021. Some visionary countries are also implementing mobile or eIDs now, for even more convenience.

The EU national ID regulation is bringing us one step closer to biometric identity standardization for a truly global community — not just for travel but for secure access to all the things that make our lives easier.

For more information about country-wide citizen identity programs with biometrics, read HID Global Fingerprint Reader Powers the World’s Largest Biometric Identification System.