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Machine-readable passport

The meaning of «machine-readable passport»

A machine-readable passport (MRP) is a machine-readable travel document (MRTD) with the data on the identity page encoded in optical character recognition format. Many countries began to issue machine-readable travel documents in the 1980s.

Most travel passports worldwide are MRPs. They are standardized by the ICAO Document 9303 (endorsed by the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission as ISO/IEC 7501-1) and have a special machine-readable zone (MRZ), which is usually at the bottom of the identity page at the beginning of a passport. The ICAO Document 9303 describes three types of documents. Usually passport booklets are issued in "Type 3" format, while identity cards and passport cards typically use the "Type 1" format. The machine-readable zone of a Type 3 travel document spans two lines, and each line is 44 characters long. The following information must be provided in the zone: name, passport number, nationality, date of birth, sex, and passport expiration date. There is room for optional, often country-dependent, supplementary information. The machine-readable zone of a Type 1 travel document spans three lines, and each line is 30 characters long.

Computers with a camera and suitable software can directly read the information on machine-readable passports. This enables faster processing of arriving passengers by immigration officials, and greater accuracy than manually read passports, as well as faster data entry, more data to be read and better data matching against immigration databases and watchlists.

Apart from optically readable information, many passports contain an RFID chip which enables computers to read a higher amount of information, for example a photo of the bearer. These passports are called biometric passports.

Passport booklets have an identity page containing the identity data. This page is in the TD3 size of 125 × 88 mm (4.92 × 3.46 in).

The data of the machine-readable zone consists of two rows of 44 characters each. The only characters used are A–Z, 0–9 and the filler character <.

In the name field, spaces, hyphens and other punctuation are represented by <, except apostrophes, which are skipped. If the names are too long, names are abbreviated to their most significant parts. In that case, the last position must contain an alphabetic character to indicate possible truncation, and if there is a given name, the two fillers and at least one character of it must be included.

Smaller documents such as identity and passport cards are usually in the TD1 size, which is 85.6 × 54.0 mm (3.37 × 2.13 in), the same size as credit cards. The data of the machine-readable zone in a TD1 size card consists of three rows of 30 characters each. The only characters used are A–Z, 0–9 and the filler character <.

Some official travel documents are in the larger TD2 size, 105.0 × 74.0 (4.13 × 2.91 in). They have a layout of the MRZ with two rows of 36 characters each, similar to the TD3 format, but with 31 characters for the name, 7 for the personal number and one less check digit. Yet some official travel documents are in the booklet format with a TD3 identity page.

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