Biometric passport troubles


Reisefreudig - © RainerSturm /

Germany. The country of bright engineers, beer and sausages, introduced a new passport (ePass) years ago. One goal which had to be achieved was to carry biometric data, like fingerprints, within the passport. This would soon be needed to enter countries like the U.S.A., UK and of course countries of the Europe Union.

Besides the peoples fear of being traceable and easily controllable, the new passport would be solid German engineering. At least that is what we thought.

But there is one mean flaw which could jeopardize your travel plans. Curious?

Every passport has his very own ID or SERIAL number which is important if you want to go to the U.S.A. for example. If you want to travel to the United States, you have to fill in a form at the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). One of the information, and maybe the most vital one, you have to enter is your passport ID number.

Now to the problem: The fonttype that was choosen for the ID number makes it hard to distinguish between a 0 (zero) and an O. You can easily confuse those which renders your ESTA application useless and you might be send back to where you’re coming from.

“Buddy, that’s a BIG flaw!” you might think, but here comes the twist.  We German’s are neat. We documented this specialty.

“So where is the problem?”, you might ask. Nobody knows about that. But why? Honestly, did you ever get a manual to your passport? I didn’t.

Somebody must have recognized that there are maybe problems ahead an so all vowels and a few more characters are excluded from the ID number.

So to sum it up: The characters B, D, Q, S, A, E, I, O, U are excluded from the  ID number. If you stumble upon a circle, now you now ;), it’s a zero for sure.

If you want to read more about this topic I recommend this article from the Germany based magazine Spiegel.


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