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What is passport verification and how does it work?

by | Identity Verification

Passport verification refers to the process of confirming the authenticity and validity of a passport. It involves verifying the information present in the passport, such as an individual’s personal data, photograph, signature, and any security features designed to prevent forgery or alteration.

Passport verification is commonly conducted by government agencies, border control (entry-exit) authorities, immigration agencies, and various institutions. Its primary purpose is to ensure that the passport presented by an individual is genuine and has not been altered or forged. This process is vital for maintaining security and preventing identity theft, illegal immigration, and other fraudulent activities.

In today’s context, passport verification may also incorporate advanced technologies based on artificial intelligence to enable remote verification. In such cases, it is no longer sufficient to authenticate the passport’s authenticity alone; additional technologies like biometrics (facial recognition) are used to confirm that the person undergoing the process is indeed who they claim to be.


What are the standard parts of a passport (TD3)?

A standard passport, as specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), follows a specific format known as a Size 3 Travel Document, or “TD3.”

The TD3 format is used in most travel passports worldwide. While this document is in booklet form, it includes a card containing all the necessary information on the front. Consequently, only the front of the document needs to be scanned, simplifying the process for passport control officers at customs and specialized OCR data extraction technologies, such as MobbScan.

The main components of a passport booklet typically include:

  1. Outer Cover: The passport’s outer cover typically displays the name of the issuing country, its national emblem, and the word “Passport” in the official language of the country.
  2. Holder Data Page: This page, located at the beginning of the passport, contains crucial information about the holder, including:
    • Full name of the holder.
    • Date of birth.
    • Nationality.
    • Passport number.
    • Date of issue and expiry date of the passport.
  3. Photograph of the holder
  4. Authority Information Page: This page provides details about the authority that issued the passport, including the issuing country’s name, national symbol, and contact information.
  5. Visa Pages: These pages contain entry and exit visas or stamps from the countries the holder has visited. Several blank pages are available to accommodate these stamps.
  6. Back Cover

It’s important to note that passport designs and content may vary from one country to another. However, the ICAO TD3 format establishes general standards used in modern passports to ensure worldwide authenticity and interoperability.

This is an example of what the holder data page of a TD3 identity document would look like.



The two lines of characters at the bottom is what is known as the MRZ.

What do the MRZ fields in a passport mean?

The MRZ, or Machine-Readable Zone, is a coded area found on identity documents such as passports, ID cards, and sometimes even driving licenses.

Each character in the MRZ has a specific meaning and is designed to enable machines to quickly verify the authenticity of the passport and match the information with the visible data on the document. The MRZ plays a vital role in streamlining passport control processes at airports and other points of entry into a country.

As depicted in the image above, the MRZ of the TD3 passport format spans two lines, with each line containing 44 characters. Additionally, several check digits are included in the MRZ to facilitate data verification.

The following image illustrates the different fields present in the MRZ:



What is the Spanish passport like?

The Spanish passport adheres to ICAO standards. It is a 32-page rectangular booklet, colored in burgundy, and measures 125 x 88 mm.

Furthermore, all passports presently issued in Spain are equipped with an NFC (RFID) chip that stores an image of the holder, all biographical information, and the fingerprints of the index fingers.

For more details about the Spanish passport, including its features, eligibility criteria, requirements, and security measures, you can visit the website of the Spanish National Police Force.


What is online passport verification, and what does it consist of?

Online passport verification is a process that involves verifying the authenticity and validity of a passport using remote tools and services.

Instead of conducting manual verification at physical checkpoints, such as airports or border crossings, online passport verification leverages technology and internet connectivity to perform this task remotely and automatically. Furthermore, it often provides real-time results, delivering nearly instant outcomes.

In many industries and government agencies, the capture and validation of passports or identity documents have been standardized for verifying individuals’ identities in digital onboarding processes and to comply with KYC and AML regulations.

The process consists of the following key steps:

Reading passport data

The initial step in passport verification is capturing all the information contained in the passport.

The passport holder or an authorized third party uploads the passport data into an online system, which can be accomplished through a mobile application, website, or an online service offered by government agencies, airlines, financial institutions, or other organizations requiring passport verification.

This step is critical, as the subsequent processes depend on the quality of the images and data extracted. Passport data can be obtained in two ways:

a) Capturing an image with a webcam or a mobile device camera and extracting information using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. In many cases, key details are automatically extracted from the Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ) of the passport, including the passport number and expiry date, which are crucial for verification.

b) In the case of e-passports containing an NFC (near-field communication) chip, encrypted information can be swiftly transmitted to NFC-enabled devices, such as modern smartphones. This process must be carried out using a native application, as the NFC chip is not accessible in a web environment. This mechanism is more secure and resistant to counterfeiting due to the various security features of NFC chips in ID documents.


pinAena and Vueling, at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, have conducted a test of the facial recognition system during the boarding process, which includes the integration of self-check-in for baggage. 

To board the plane using facial recognition, passengers need to access the app developed by Mobbeel, which verifies their passport or identity document via NFC

Verification of passport authenticity

To validate the authenticity of a passport, various security measures embedded in the passports are analyzed. This process involves detecting holograms or watermarks, determining if it is a photocopy, checking for digital alterations, and validating the control digits of the MRZ. For passports equipped with an NFC chip, verification also includes confirming the authenticity of the information and the chip itself.

These security measures are designed to enhance the passport’s resistance to forgery and tampering. They are essential for ensuring the security and integrity of international travel and remote identity verification processes.

Additionally, the extracted information can be compared with government databases containing records of valid, lost, or stolen passports. This allows for the verification of whether the passport has been reported as stolen or revoked for any reason.

Biometric verification of passport owner

In certain instances, biometric verification is employed, utilizing facial recognition algorithms to match the passport holder’s photograph with the real-time image provided by the individual via a selfie taken with a webcam or mobile device. This method confirms that the person presenting the passport is indeed the rightful owner.

Online passport verification serves as an efficient solution utilized in a wide range of applications, from airport check-ins to opening online bank accounts and verifying identities in digital services. It facilitates rapid and accurate identity verification, thereby improving usability and efficiency across various industries.


What security features do passports have to prevent forgery?

Passports incorporate a range of security features designed to prevent forgery and ensure the document’s authenticity. These measures vary by the issuing country and may evolve over time to counter new counterfeiting techniques. Some common security measures include:

  • Security Printing: Passports often use advanced printing techniques, such as embossed or tactile relief printing, which make it difficult to accurately copy printed elements, including the country name, national symbols, and other details.

  • Ultraviolet and Invisible Inks: Ultraviolet (UV) and invisible inks are employed to print items visible only under UV light. Customs and security officials use UV light to verify passport authenticity.

  • Holograms: Many passports feature holograms that change appearance when viewed from different angles, making accurate reproduction highly challenging.

  • Optical Variable Elements (OVD): OVDs are graphic elements that change appearance when tilted or moved. They can include shifting or color-changing images.

  • Security Threads: Some passports include visible security threads, often containing text or patterns that are difficult to duplicate, visible under direct light.

  • Microprinting: Passports may incorporate microprinted text or patterns nearly invisible to the naked eye, making accurate reproduction difficult.

  • Special Paper and Material: High-quality, hard-to-obtain paper and materials are used in passport manufacturing, making them challenging to reproduce.

  • Electronic Chip: Many modern passports include an electronic chip storing biometric data, such as a facial photograph and, occasionally, fingerprints, enabling biometric verification at entry points.

  • Watermarks: Passports may contain embedded watermarks visible when held against the light.

  • Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ): As mentioned earlier, the MRZ is a vital passport component enabling swift verification of the holder’s information.

The Spanish e-passport incorporates an NFC chip containing biometric data related to the document holder’s facial image and personal data included in the OCR lines. It also includes the latest security measures:

  • Ultraviolet printing on all sheets.
  • Data sheet with a transparent holographic foil featuring embossed or moving effects, microtext, nanotext, text and image transformations, or diffractive watermarks.
  • A ghost image of the headline photograph printed in the middle of the page.


Mobbeel anti-fraud security measures

MobbScan incorporates a series of controls that serve two key purposes: validating the document being used and verifying the identity of the person presenting it. These security measures include:

Content-Based Document Verification: At the initial level of analysis, we validate the information within the identity document. This validation adheres to the standards defined by ICAO for internationally recognized travel documents. It includes verifying check digits, data on both sides of the document, two-dimensional codes, and preventing the use of forged documents.

Document Verification Based on Appearance Analysis: Standard identity documents are designed to detect visual irregularities. MobbScan utilizes computer vision and machine learning techniques to identify any irregularities such as cuts, missing distinctive elements, facial image alterations, or the use of document copies or screenshots.

Document Verification Based on File Analysis: To prevent tampering with attached documents, MobbScan scrutinizes the image frame for signs of digital editing. This process alerts users to potential threats by verifying elements like the date of birth, facial image, and personal number in customer registration systems.

Document Verification Based on Dynamic Element Analysis: For enhanced security, advanced checks are conducted on identity documents containing dynamic elements such as laser marks, kinegrams, or NFC technology. These checks may require user involvement and can impact the user experience, in contrast to previous measures that remain transparent to the user.

In addition, MobbScan facilitates the scanning of ID documents through both mobile devices and web channels. The solution captures and scans ID documents, validates and extracts all necessary information, verifies the user using facial biometrics, proof of life, and video identification if necessary. Furthermore, it allows for the review and retrieval of all validation processes within an evidence management platform.


Contact us today! and we will demonstrate how our technology securely and reliably verifies passports remotely.

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  • Automates user verification.
  • Prevents document and identity fraud.

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