A recent question by @Coke prompted me to check the MRI on some passports: Will my ID scan at check-in.

I am interested in the format of the MRI data on passports and ID cards. I am only interested in ID cards that can (to some extent) be used for international travel. I am not interested in cards that are valid only in the issuing country.

You can see a sample UK passport here: Introducing the new UK passport design. It is the two lines at the bottom of the photo page that I am interested in. These are usually entirely in upper case and contain many < symbols. I have seen fewer ID cards but they appear to be somewhat similar.

I have examined a few passports and the format appears quite consistent. All personal data is fictionalised, my name is not Riley.



I have checked a few examples. < is sometimes but not always used to separate fields with two at the end of the surname. They are also used to fill out the fields. (I have not counted so the exact number here might not be correct).

First line P, country code, surname, first given name, second given name.

The second line is the passport number (9 digits for the UK ones that I examined) followed by the country code, date of birth (800101 here), a non-obvious digit (9 here), M/F for male / female, the expiry date (200101), another non-obvious digit, < fillers and a non-obvious 2 digit code.


This is similar but a different country code (of course) and the passport number is not fully numeric.



Also similar.


John Riley is a rather unlikely Filipino name.

Some of the examples have no middle name.


In the Philippines, middle name usually refers to your mother's maiden name (men or unmarried women) or your own maiden name (married women). This has its own field in the human readable section but is omitted from the MRI. Only one given name is common. In one case, this middle name is treated this way on the Philippine passport (i.e. omitted from the MRI) but included in the same person's UK passport as a second given name.

The country code appears to be the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 code. This seems to be the most prominent use of this alpha-3 code. The alpha-2 code is more commonly used.

I am slightly surprised that the dates are just YYMMDD rather than YYYYMMDD. Considering that many people live past 100, this allows some ambiguity.

The digits following the dates may be check digits. I see the same digit on my Irish full sized passport and my passport card and also on UK and Philippine passports with the same date of birth.

Coke's question suggests that Sweden is similar and starts P<SWE.

ID cards seem less consistent. Coke suggests that his ID card starts I<SWE but my Irish passport card has a completely different format. The MRI is on the back:


Three lines and a very different field sequence. The passport number does not match the full sized passport. The 9s are non-obvious digits.

I am interested in more examples, especially ones that do not follow the patterns that I have shown. I am also interested in the handling of names in non-Latin scripts and different handling of the same name by different countries (e.g. the Philippine middle name).

  • 1
    I would assume that this is a technical question and not on topic here. Machine readable travel documents are specified by ICAO in document 9303 and you can find everything you want to know there: icao.int/publications/pages/publication.aspx?docnum=9303 – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 6 '18 at 10:34
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Thanks. That tells me pretty much everything that I might like to know about the data in the passports. It does not appear to cover the ID cards though. – badjohn Oct 6 '18 at 10:57
  • The specification covers both passports and id cards. What exactly are you missing? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 6 '18 at 11:03
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    @Coke The specification covers three different document formats. Passports, as in regular booklets, are known to ICAO as format TD3 and covered in part 4. Credit card sized id cards (format TD1) are covered in part 5. Larger id cards (format TD2), as e.g. previously issued in Germany, are covered in part 6. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 6 '18 at 11:56
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about travelling. – David Richerby Oct 6 '18 at 12:51

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