Federal Office for Information Security (BSI)

The electronic passport

The electronic passport (ePassport) was introduced in Germany on 1st November, 2005. The passport book of the electronic passport corresponds to the old passport. Additionally, the cover contains an embedded contactless chip (radio frequency chip). Initially only the personal data from the passport book and a facial image were found on the chip. With the storage of two fingerprints of the passport holder on the RF chip being introduced on 1st November, 2007 all the requirements of the European Union for passports have now been implemented.

Data protection

A centralized storage of the data located on the passport does not occur. The registration authorities only store the same data in the passport registers as was stored before the introduction of the electronic passport. The fingerprints are only stored on the RF chip and temporarily during the card manufacturing process. Once the passport is collected by its holder at the registration office, the fingerprints needed for registration and manufacturing are deleted. This is specified in §16 of the Passgesetz (German Passport Law).

Different security mechanisms were developed in order to protect the data stored on the RF chip from unauthorized reading.

Benefits of the electronic passport

The facial image stored digitally on the RF chip has a better quality than the one printed on the ID card, since it is not distorted by the structure of the passport card (due to typographical authentication features). The digital image, as well as the stored fingerprints are therefore very suitable for the determination of whether the passport and its bearer really correspond.

Besides, the security mechanisms on the RF chip allow to quickly recognize forged or falsified electronic passports. More on this topic under "Passive authentication" ...

Content of the electronic passport

The electronic passport consists of 32 or 48 pages. The first page is the data page. The passport contains the following personal data:

  • Surname* and if applicable name at birth*,
  • Given name(s)*,
  • Doctoral degree*,
  • Day* and place* of birth,
  • Sex*,
  • Height,
  • Eye color,
  • Place of residence,
  • Nationality*

The data marked with * is located on the data page, all other data on the next page. Besides, the document type (e.g. "PD" for diplomatic passport), country code, date of issue and expiry, passport number, issuing authority and the bearer's signature are also printed on the data page.

The data page also includes a machine readable zone (MRZ), which can be read by optical character recognition (OCR). It is located at the bottom of the card.
It comprises the document type, the abbreviation "D" for Federal Republic of Germany, the surname, first name(s), serial number of the passport, nationality, date of birth, sex, date of expiry and check sums.

A law compliant sample of the passport book can be found here.

Two fingerprints are stored on the RF chip in addition to the data listed above, these being recorded upon application.

Validity period

According to §5 of the Passgesetz (German Passport Law) a passport is valid for ten years, for persons under the age of 25 six years.