With the rapid growth in technology, the need for higher & more sophisticated security & safety protocols has become a high priority. One of the prime examples of this is the Machine Readable Zone or MRZ. MRZ has enabled machines to read information on identity documents like passports and visas quickly and accurately.

Creating machine readable zones in ID documents provides a reliable means for verifying the identities of individuals. The use of MRZ in identity verification and authentication processes aids institutions in detecting and probing ID fraud, potential money laundering and terrorist financing cases.

What is a Machine Readable Zone?

MRZ stands for Machine Readable Zone. This is a section of an ID document containing encoded details about the ID holder in a standardized format. Typically, this zone contains data such as the document holder’s nationality, name, date of birth, passport number, and the document’s expiration date.

At a basic level, the MRZ is a series of characters printed at the bottom of the page in a rectangular fashion.

The passport machine readable zone uses a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols to allow machines to read the said document. A standardized format is employed to ensure machines can easily read and process the information of the ID holder.

Checking MRZ number passports offers several uses, such as inspecting the document’s validity, verifying the document holder’s identity, and also as a means to reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud.

Development of the MRZ System – History & Objectives of MRZ 

The machine readable zone in travel documents was first introduced in the 1980s. It was implemented to simplify and speed up the ID check process in establishments with restricted access.

Before the presence of machine readable zones on IDs, border control officers had to physically examine and verify the information in each passport and other travel documents. This system was laborious and posed security risks if fraudulent IDs were not detected.

A specialized agency of the UN, ICAO establishes international norms and suggests procedures for the MRZ technical requirements for all machine readable travel documents. The standards specified by ICAO include instructions on the creation, arrangement, and encoding of MRZs to promote document standardization and interoperability between various nations and authorities.

The machine readable zone was created to encode information about the document holder in a standardized format that machines can easily process. And, over time, the use of MRZ grew in popularity. Apart from travel documents, it is now used for document verification purposes such as KYC.

Further, the MRZ in passports or other identity documents have become an effective step toward preventing unauthorized ID changes. MRZ is now an essential part of securing ID cards and documents, and is added to prevent instances of forgery and identity theft.

Typical Format of a Machine Readable Zone

The machine readable zone is at the bottom of the biographical or personal information page and consists of two lines of symbols and characters. The elements of a typical passport MRZ are as follows:

  1. Type of document- For ex., ‘P’ for regular passport
  2. Country code of the issuing country-  For ex., ‘IND’ for India
  3. Passport holder’s full name- including the surname and given name(s)
  4. Passport number
  5. Passport holder’s nationality
  6. Passport holder’s date of birth
  7. Check digit
  8. Passport holder’s gender
  9. Passport expiration date
  10. Other data listed by the passport issuing authority

Some of the elements may be separated by the “<” character. The format and components present in the MRZ can vary depending on the country issuing the document and the type of document.

How Do Verification Systems Decode MRZ? 

The machine readable zone software or MRZ software in an ID document consists of machine-understandable lines. These encoded lines include the document holder’s personal details, along with ‘checksum’. The checksum is a numerical value that helps in identifying document forgery.

OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, a text recognition and conversion technology, is used to read and examine the data in the machine readable zone. The MRZ code is scanned to access the encoded data and then saved electronically.

To achieve this, first, the image of the ID is scanned. After this stage, the machine-readable zone is extracted, and the embedded text is recognized and analyzed to extract the data fields.

OCR is used to calculate the checksum of the extracted data. The calculated checksums are then compared to the original checksums for data validation which allows for the verification of the document’s authenticity.

Machines scan and decode an MRZ as follows:

  1. Scanning software is used to scan the machine readable zone on the document.
  2. Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is used to interpret the MRZ.
  3. The extracted data is compared to the check digits or checksum.
  4. If the check digits do not correspond to the predefined data, further investigation and verification are performed to check the document’s authenticity.

MRZ – What are the Different Types and Formats? 

There are different formats of MRZ, which vary depending on the size of the document it is present on. Filler characters such as ‘<’ are used to finish a line if the encoded data is insufficient to fill it. The different types of MRZ include:

  • TD1: This format of the MRZ is used on credit card-sized ID documents. Three lines of 30 characters each, including check digits, make up this MRZ format. Because of the small document size, the MRZ is on the back, necessitating scanning the document on both sides. 
  • TD2: This is a larger format that allows the MRZ to fit on the same side as the human-readable zone. This format takes up two lines, each with 36 characters. The encoded data is similar to that of TD1; however, the name of the ID holder appears on the first line instead of the last line. 
  • TD3: This MRZ format is used for the majority of international passports and consists of two lines of 44 characters each. The first line starts with the character ‘P,’ and the last line has an extra check digit at the end.
  • MRV-A: MRV or Machine-Readable Visa contains the character ‘V’ in the first line of the MRZ. There are two lines with 44 characters each, and the encoded information is comparable to those of TD2 and TD3, without a check digit for the second line. 
  • MRV-B: In this type of MRZ, the two MRZ lines in MRV-B documents are only 36 characters long since they are slightly smaller than MRV-A documents, and the information encoded is the same as MRV-A.

MRZ- Enhancing ID Verification For Businesses

Businesses can leverage MRZ data to verify user identities when conducting KYC Verification. Incorporating machine readable zones on identity documents helps companies to streamline and expedite ID verification processes. They can use the data from their customer’s MRZ ID to establish the legitimacy of the person providing the ID card, which is an essential step in KYC procedures.

Using MRZ code passport validation to perform ID verification helps businesses adhere to regulatory KYC standards while expediting their customer verification process. Machine readable zones on ID documents help enterprises to effectively capture data of their customers, assess the accuracy of the captured data and confirm the authenticity of the ID document as well as the legitimacy of the customer providing the identity document.

How Can Businesses Use MRZ To Streamline KYC Verification?

The machine readable zone on documents like passports can be used as part of the Know-Your-Customer process, which is a must for many business sectors. MRZ offers several advantages like:

  • Verification of the authenticity of IDs: Using the MRZ data, businesses can verify whether the ID documents produced by their customers are genuine or forged. 
  • Confirming the identity of users: Businesses can compare the data retrieved by scanning MRZ to other sources like databases to ensure the person is who they are claiming to be. 
  • Mitigation of risk: Similarly, companies can check the user data extracted from the MRZ against watchlists and sanctions to ensure they are risk-free. 
  • Reducing data discrepancies: MRZ contains check numbers that can be used to confirm the accuracy and integrity of the extracted data. Businesses can compare the calculated check digits with the embedded check digits in the MRZ to reduce data entry errors. 
  • Efficiency in capturing data: Businesses can use OCR or optical character recognition technology to easily extract data from identity documents that have machine readable zones incorporated into them. 

Verify Passport MRZ and Create Smooth KYC Processes With SignDesk

Machine readable zones on IDs like passports allow businesses to extract relevant information and validate it to ensure they are transacting with a legitimate individual. MRZ can play a key role in accelerating KYC, as it enables faster and more accurate identification of personal details of individuals.

Businesses can use MRZ to extract data like their customer’s name, date of birth, nationality, etc., and also verify if the passport they have produced for verification is authentic or not. SignDesk’s digital KYC solution helps businesses confirm the identity of their customers through government-issued documents like passports to onboard them digitally.

Companies can automate passport verification by incorporating SignDesk’s Digital KYC workflow, complete with AI-enabled features, and practice AML compliance effectively. Get in touch with our KYC experts to learn how digital KYC can streamline verification procedures for your business.