Technology

What is a Machine-Readable Zone?

Machine-Readable Zone or MRZ is a separate area in personal or travel documents encoded with the document holder’s data. The idea behind MRZ is to make automated scanning of general information on the documents much faster and easier. The information contains the document holder’s full name, nationality, date of birth, document expiration date, and document number. 

MRZ has been a successful technology, and almost every country uses them to issue international passports, visas, residential permits, etc., to their citizens. Any document that comes with MRZ is called a Machine Readable Travel Document, or MRTD.

MRZ: its purpose

In the 80s, US government agencies wanted a faster mode of identity check at places with controlled access, like an airport. They introduced a Machine-Readable Zone that turned out to be a stable, robust, well-cooperated security system to help with the process. MRTD proved to be a successful document verification instrument in cross-border travel since its introduction. Once the system proved its worth, all the countries adopted it into their systems as well. 

With time, prominent business centers and places which invited large crowds cloned the MRZ system to fit their automated identification protocols. Companies have also started using it during the customer verification and onboarding process.

MRZ serves three primary purposes:

  1. it allows a systematic standardization format of personal information that allows fast recognition and scanning.
  2. With international MRZ standardization, several countries can identity check the personal data of a citizen. 
  3. It is an additional security level with encoded personal data since the system contains syntactic rules that prevent forgery. 

On top of all these, the MRZ scan lets the official access the RFIC chip embedded under the biometric identity documents. 

Passports with MRZ

An international passport is a document that a citizen needs if they wish to travel cross-borders. To ensure all countries recognize a passport, the identity page’s content format and structure must be standardized.

The identity page of a passport contains two parts:

  • Visual Inspection Zone (VIZ): It includes personal information about the passport holder in a format understandable to humans.
  • Machine-Readable Zone (MRZ): It is a two-line code present at the bottom of the page that only a machine can read.

The two-line code contains:

  • Document code
  • Government code of the agency that issued the document.
  • Passport holder’s full name.
  • Document number
  • Citizenship of the holder
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Passport’s issue and expiration date
  • Other essential data

Machine-Readable Zone and its types:

The MRZ code standard is strictly regulated that must comply with Doc 9303. Machine Readable Travel Documents that the International Civil Aviation Organization published. 

There are currently numerous types of ICAO standard MRZs in use across the world with varying code lines and characters. But the prominent four types are:

TD-1: contains three lines, and each line contains 30 characters.

TD-2: includes two lines, and each line has 36 characters.

TD-3 or MRP and MRV-A: contain two lines, and each line contains 44 characters.

Machine-Readable Zone and its role in identity verification:

Today, all countries use MRZ for not only their international passports but also for other national documents. It makes the identity check process easier and faster. As passport verification is a standard process during a background check, MRZ allows detecting suspected identities. 

Nowadays, companies have adopted MRZ into their systems as a security measure against frauds and cyber crimes with high accuracy and speed.

Conclusion

Machine-Readable Zone is a great invention that assists government agencies and helps private organizations with an extra security layer. But to enjoy the full potential of MRZ, we need to develop high-capable MRZ recognition systems to check and verify information fast and effectively. 

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