European Union ID cards set to be upgraded over the next 2 years

This week the European Parliament approved a proposed Regulation by the European Commission to introduce minimum levels of security features for national ID cards issued by European Union countries. While not fully ratified yet, it seems only a formality from here because the final hurdle lies with the European Commission who proposed it in the first place.

This law will also affect the European Free Trade Area countries: Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway.

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Minimum levels of security

National ID cards issued by EEA countries vary wildly, ranging from paper booklets with a photo stuck to it, to biometric ID cards which contain other physical details about the holder. The new law sets to bring about a minimum standard, nor does it force countries to adopt an aesthetic design.

Currently EEA citizens are able to travel to other EEA countries using their ID card alone. The issue of security becomes even more concerning within the Schengen Area which allows for freedom of movement within nearly the whole of continental Europe. The thought being someone could try to enter a ‘lax' country using lower quality ID cards, counterfeit or not, and travel to other parts of the Area.

According to the official Press Release new ID cards will feature a “highly secure contactless chip” (which I presume means RFID chips) and will contain the holder's photograph and fingerprint details.


As the final Directive has not yet been published there is no set date, but this Directive comes into force 12 months after its publication and all EEA countries will have a further 2 years to comply. This is anticipated to be around somewhere around 2021 or 2022. Existing ID cards that do not meet this new standard must be replaced within 10 years, which is about the normal validity of an existing card anyway. ID cards for people over 70 years of age will be exempt from swapping them out.

Not only will ID cards, but also residence permits given to people who are not EU citizens (e.g. family members defined under Directive 2004/38/EC) will need to conform to these requirements too.

One thing to note is that this new upcoming law does not oblige countries to issue ID cards. Denmark, Iceland, Norway and United Kingdom do not issue ID cards though Norway plans to do so next year, and only 15 EU countries oblige its citizens to hold one. But this law does mean that if a country chooses to issue them then they will need to meet these new minimum requirements.

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