It’s that time of year when holidaymakers have to grit their teeth and put up with lengthy queues at the airports, sometimes waiting hours to pass through border control. Machine-readable passports (MRPs) don’t cut the queues, but they do keep things moving a little faster.
Indeed, MRPs have many advantages over the typed and sometimes handwritten documents that preceded them. Not only are they more reliable and more difficult to forge, but also they enable faster processing of travellers by immigration officials.
Holders can beat slower moving queues by using e-gates that automatically authenticate and check their MRPs as they pass through them. It is estimated that up to one billion people already have biometric MRTDs and a recent report expects the number to rise “at a fantastic rate” as more countries recognize the benefits.
Underpinning the adoption of MRTDs are International Standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that define all the usable biometric file formats and protocols. ICAO—a UN specialized agency that aims to reach consensus on civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs)—has standardized the use of biometric and e-passports, as many countries have decided to issue them.
ICAO Document 9303 refers to a number of Standards issued by the IEC and ISO Joint Technical Committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1). The newly updated Standard for testing the durability of MRPs, ISO/IEC 18745-1:2018, is an official companion to the ICAO document, defining what is necessary for passports to be compliant.
ISO/IEC 18745-1:2018, Test methods for machine readable travel documents (MRTD) and associated devices – Part 1: Physical test methods for passport books (durability), now replaces the ICAO’s own technical report for durability, specifying the minimum criteria to be achieved in order to meet ICAO’s expectations.
The updated Standard provides a set of instructions for evaluation of MRPs which may incorporate contactless integrated circuits. This evaluation is an instrument to establish the ability in principle of a specific type of document to fulfil the requirements of use.
It supplies a structured approach to evaluate MRPs by:
• defining reproducible stress methods to submit the document(s) under evaluation to specific stress or environmental conditions;
• defining reproducible evaluation methods to measure numerical values for specific document properties;
• defining test sequences that specify the order in which stress methods and evaluation methods are to be performed;
• defining test plans to link specific user requirements to test sequences and related parameters.
ISO/IEC 18745-1:2018 specifies the minimum criteria to be achieved in order to meet ICAO’s expectations for durability of fully personalized MRPs.