I suppose every country that issues an E-Passport has a member of some central authority or organization which manages the visa information worldwide. The reason some citizens can use e-Passport in Airport e-Gate/Automated passport control is due to this central database that's shared among the countries. I want to know what that authority is? Some countries (like mine) cant use this e-Gate, even if we have an e-Passport, due to being unapproved yet by this authority.

5 Answers 5


You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way all of this works.

The chip in an e-passport contains information about you and your passport. Mostly the same stuff you can see on the bio page of your passport (names, place and date of birth, citizenship, place and date of issue, expiry…), along with some optional biometric data, which can be fingerprints or a photo (or other data which enables facial recognition IIRC). Most importantly, it also contains the passport number.

Note that data in the chip can be protected, with various levels of protection. Basic data is usually protected using a key based on the contents of the MRZ (the machine readable zone, the two lines at the bottom of the bio page, which is read via OCR), which ensures that only a reader than can see the bio page can talk wirelessly to the chip. Biometric data is often protected further with a key which needs to be exchanged between the issuer of the passport and each country wanting to use it.

E-Gates are there to verify:

  • that you have a valid passport
  • that you are the person for which the passport has been issued (see below)
  • that you are allowed in (see below)
  • that you are not on a list of people who need “special treatment” (wanted by the police etc.)

To check you are the right person, the e-gate needs to be able to get your biometric data and match it to that on the chip. This raises a first issue, as not all passports contain the same data and not all gates have all readers. If the gate can only do facial recognition while the passport contains only fingerprints, or vice versa, it won’t work. Some e-passports do not contain any biometric data at all, or data which is recognised only by gates on the same country. And as stated above, each country needs to get keys from each other country they want to recognise to read the relevant data.

Once the gate knows who you are, it can try to determine whether you should be let through. The two most common cases are that you don’t need a visa at all (you are a citizen or permanent resident of the country, or come from a country whose citizens don’t need a visa to enter that one), or that you have a visa for the country.

For that last case, the visa does not need to be stored in the chip in the passport (it can’t, actually). The gate reads the passport number (and the rest of your data) and looks up in the database of the country you arrive in to see if the visa is in there (most countries don’t care about other countries visas, only the ones they issue, which they (should) know about, no need for any centralised database).

Further, there are lots of cases when it won’t work. Many countries may have special procedures for the first visit on a visa (especially the longer term ones). They may not trust people of certain countries even with a visa. They may not have compatible gates, they may not have the keys, and so on.

Just as an example, in France the first generation of e-passports did not contain the same biometric data as later ones. This makes those older passports unusable in current French e-gates!

  • 1
    Doesn't the standard specify that the chip must contain a digital copy of the same photograph shown on the identification page? Certainly all of the passports I've ever checked contain this. Furthermore, the use of a key comprising data from the MRZ to control access to the RFID chip is also part of the specification, so "usually" is a bit misleading.
    – phoog
    Dec 30, 2021 at 8:09
  • thanks a lot, now all make sense.
    – Tanvir
    Dec 30, 2021 at 12:45
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    This leaves out the very important point of the digital info being digitally signed by the issuing country. Otherwise, you could readily create your own fake digital passport - and way easier than a paper passport as you do not have to take care of all those fine wiggly lines and holograms. Dec 31, 2021 at 11:07

I suppose every country that issues an E-Passport has a member of some central authority or organization which manages the visa information worldwide.

No, this is not the case.

Each country must collect this information for themselfs and often do so by reading/scanning the information contained in the machine readable zone of the main page.

Some countries, like Germany, don't even have a national database where the information of their own passports are collected and therefore cannot pass this information onto some other 'central authority'.

Some countries (like mine) cant use this e-Gate, ...

The eligibility who may use an eGate is determined by each country and is often based on the likelihood of citizens of a specific country to be interviewed by an immigration official upon entry.

  • If u have visa for X country in ur passport, then how does that country know ur passport and visa therein? How does the e-gate know ur visa?
    – Tanvir
    Dec 29, 2021 at 14:50
  • @Tanvir From the information contained in the mashine readable zone of the passport which was collected when the visa was issued. Dec 29, 2021 at 15:02
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    @Tanvir "machine readable" refers to the two lines of characters at the bottom of the passport's ID page. Most visas are machine readable, too, and countries that allow people with visas to use automated passport control might have them scan the machine readable visa when using the passport control kiosk. Alternatively, the visa-issuing country can look up the visa in its own visa database using the traveler's passport details (which is in fact the only option if it is an e-visa, which are becoming increasingly popular).
    – phoog
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:30
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    @Tanvir I think I missed a logical step in my previous comment. You asked "if you have a visa for X country in your passport, then how does that country know your passport and visa therein?" Country X knows about the visa because it issued the visa! Furthermore, when you applied for the visa, you showed them your passport, and they essentially "remember" your passport by recording it in a database along with a record of the visa they issued. When you scan the passport, they find the database records. Because it is their own database, there's no need for a central authority.
    – phoog
    Dec 30, 2021 at 16:05
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    @Tanvir the same process happens when you go to a traditional-style passport-control desk. The officer scans your passport and gets a bunch of information from various sources, including the airline's passenger manifest (if you arrived by airplane), police arrest warrant databases (if only to say that you are not a wanted criminal), previous immigration records, and, indeed, your visa application file. The only external authority universally consulted is Interpol, which will tell them whether you have an international arrest warrant and whether your passport has been reported lost or stolen.
    – phoog
    Dec 30, 2021 at 16:12

I suppose every country that issues an E-Passport has a member of some central authority or organization which manages the visa information worldwide.

There is no such organization.

The reason some citizens can use e-Passport in Airport e-Gate/Automated passport control is due to this central database that's shared among the countries.

This is incorrect. Each country decides who can use its automatic passport control and under what circumstances. Countries may have bilateral or multilateral agreements about this, but I am not aware of any. The systems i am familiar with are all implemented unilaterally.

Some countries (like mine) cant use this e-Gate, even if we have an e-Passport, due to being unapproved yet by this authority.

Most countries I'm aware of extend this benefit to those who can enter without a visa. In some cases, it is only a subset of those who can enter without a visa who can use automated passport control.

Countries make these decisions based on risk assessments. If you want to understand why citizens of your country cannot use a particular country's automatic passport control, you should consider the other country's attitude toward visitors and immigrants from your country.

  • that means it depends on the visa issuing country, if they want to allow some nations to use their E-Gate.
    – Tanvir
    Dec 29, 2021 at 15:43
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    Depends also on wether the country (our group of countries as in the Schengen zone) has a system that registers entries/exits. If they do not then passports still need to be stamped. Dec 29, 2021 at 16:07

Other answers have done a good job of explaining how e-passports work and why a central database of identity information isn't required, but have only hinted at the need and existence of a centralised authority known as ICAO: https://www.icao.int/Pages/default.aspx

ICAO provides two important roles in managing E-passport infrastructure:

The second point in particular could explain why a valid e-passport wouldn't be trusted by another country if it's not yet on the approved signers list.

  • Yes, I was referring to this very organization (ICAO) indeed, I just forgot their name.
    – Tanvir
    Dec 31, 2021 at 15:28
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    For those not familiar with what ICAO is, it's the International Civil Aviation Organization. It is an inter-government treaty agency whose primary responsibility is cooperation between countries for the safety and efficiency of international civil (i.e. non-military) air travel. This is mostly on subjects relevant to pilots, air traffic controllers, airport operators, and aircraft designers and mechanics, but it also includes some government-related passenger issues, such as passport standards. Most passenger-related issues are handled instead by IATA, the international trade org for airlines
    – reirab
    Dec 31, 2021 at 17:25
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    The main distinction between ICAO and IATA is that ICAO is an organization of government agencies (the civil aviation authorities of the member countries... which is nearly all countries,) while IATA is an industry organization among the airlines. This is why your tickets and bag tags will have IATA designators on them, while flight plans will instead use ICAO (and/or local aviation authority) ones.
    – reirab
    Dec 31, 2021 at 17:29

To address the question of a "central authority or organization" from a technical perspective, there is also no need for such centralised control.

The information in the passport is digitally "signed" (using cryptography) by the issuing country. This is what prevents anyone from forging the information.

Each country uses their own certificate to sign their passports. At the border, the eGates will have a list of certificates to trust stored in memory, one for each country. So there's no need for a centralised authority to sign every single passport in the world.

  • You could mention that there is a bit of coordination on technical standards (what information the chip should contain, how to read information from the chip, etc.) though this is certainly far short of what the OP suggested.
    – djr
    Dec 30, 2021 at 18:17

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