What is Passport Verification?

Passports are a common way to verify identity, especially in countries that do not have official identity documents (like the US), and when citizens of one country need to identify themselves in another country, where their drivers license or government-provided ID is not recognized. 

Passport verification is the process of verifying that the owner of the passport is really the individual named in the passport document, or digitally verifying that a user really holds a valid passport document in their name. Identity verification, which can be done using passports or other official documents, is critical for businesses that need to comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti money laundering (AML) legislation.

In this article:

What is a Passport?

A passport is an official document issued by governments. The passport contains identity information and certifies the identity and nationality of the card holder. A standard passport usually contains the full name of the holder, a photograph, the place and date of birth of the holder, a signature, and the passport’s expiration date.

In recent years, countries have started issuing biometric passports, which come with an embedded microchip. This addition to the passport makes it machine readable and difficult to counterfeit. Over 150 jurisdictions have begun issuing e-passports. In these places, non-biometric passports are valid only until their expiration date.

Here are several types of passports:

Passport / tourist passport

The most common type of passport. It is issued to each individual citizen as well as other nationals.

Due to security and logistical reasons, the majority of nations have stopped issuing family passports decades ago.

Official / service passport 

A passport issued to official government staff. 

Government officials and accompanying dependents use official passports when traveling for work purposes.

Diplomatic passport 

A passport issued to diplomats and accompanying dependents. Diplomats use this passport for official international travel and residence. 

A diplomatic passport does not automatically offer diplomatic immunity and special privileges. Any immunity or privileges are accredited based on the laws and regulations of each country and case.

Emergency / temporary passport 

A passport issued temporarily to replace a lost or stolen passport.  

An emergency passport offers an alternative to those who cannot obtain a regular passport on time to meet their flight. This is why these passports have a short time duration. For example, a one way document approving travel back to the holder’s home country.

Using Passport Verification for KYC and AML

Two recent regulations standardize the use of online identity verification, including identity verification using passports:

  • electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services (eIDAS)—regulates the use and handling of electronic signature, electronic transactions, and trust services.
  • Fifth Anti Money Laundering Directive (AMLD5)—helps fight against money laundering, identity theft, terrorist financing, and fraud. 

These two regulations are comprehensive, offering a secure identity verification process used by many countries worldwide. Here are several types of organizations that are impacted by these regulations. If you operate in any of these industries, passport-based identification is a viable way to comply with the regulations.

Banking and finance

Banking and financial procedures of any kind need to implement compliant identity verification. This includes the opening of new bank accounts and online purchases.

Telecommunications and insurance industries

Any procurement of services and products in these industries require verification, as well as making representations.

Applications and platforms

In some cases, log-in for websites or applications, including two-factor authentication, may require compliant identity verification. Additionally, verification is required for access to buildings and facilities, tourism check-in, as well as new customer and user registration.

Government and administration

Any renewal or creation of electronic certificates and ID documents require strict verification. This includes identification processes that create electronic government credentials, as well as medical procedures and applications related to healthcare or the prescription of drugs.

Learn more in our detailed guides about:

Methods for Passport Verification

Verifying Identity via Physical Passport Document

Organizations can use passports to verify customer’s identity. There are two main ways to achieve identity verification using physical passport documents:

    • Physical presentation of passport—a customer can be requested to arrive at a physical facility, present their passport and have it validated manually by staff, or using passport scanner devices (such as those deployed by airports).
    • Near Field Communication (NFC)—some passports include an NFC chip, making it possible to validate its authenticity using a dedicated NFC reader, or a mobile phone equipped with NFC hardware and a passport validation app. This is considered strong verification that the user is in possession of the real passport document.

Verifying Identity Remotely with Passport and Biometric Data

 

Electronic identity verification providers help organizations validate the identity of customers using passport documents, but without requiring customers to physically present their passport or use NFC technology. This makes passport verification more convenient, and makes it easier for customers to register with services or make transactions that require identity verification.

An identity verification service typically requires customers to scan their passport and provide one or more additional proofs of identity:

  • Personal details like full name, birth date, address
  • Other official documents such as a driver’s license or government issued ID
  • Selfie of the user, which should match the face on the passport document
  • Video capture of the user’s face, with liveness check to prevent impersonation of the user using photos or pre-recorded video

The service can combine these inputs to validate the user’s identity in a way that complies with KYC and AML requirements.

Learn more in our detailed guides to:

Example Process for Digital Passport Verification

Here is an example of how remote passport verification using a website or mobile application can work:

  1. The user is prompted to enter a recent home address, and verify ownership of their phone using a text or voice message. They may also be asked to confirm a social security or other ID number.
  2. The user is prompted to take a photo of their passport. The application verifies that the photo is of sufficiently high quality, and if not, prompts the user to take another photo. The app uses optical character recognition (OCR) to extract data from the passport image.
  3. The user is prompted to take a selfie showing their head and shoulders. Again, the image is verified and if the user’s face is not showing clearly, they are prompted to take another photo.
  4. The user enables their camera and starts a video session, with a liveness check to ensure they are showing a live video stream. For example, the app may ask the user to blink or move their face in different directions to prove they are really in front of the camera.
  5. The user reviews personal information they provided—address, social security number, and photos. 
  6. The application cross references data from the passport with government databases, and compares the passport photo, selfie, and liveness check video to ensure the photographed user is really the owner of the passport document.
  7. In case of mismatch between photo and passport, or a low confidence score by automated analysis, the user is forwarded to a human operator who can verify their identity.

Passport Verification with BlueCheck

BlueCheck’s industry leading identity verification infrastructure enables merchants to grow their business faster. Serving a wide variety of industries, our solutions are custom tailored to the unique needs of our customers, including PACT Act and eCommerce compliant offerings. 

Schedule a call with a BlueCheck specialist to learn more about our Age & ID Verification solutions. Ask about price savings when bundled with Payment Processing services.