For the past 40 years, the ICAO Machine-readable Travel Documents (MRTD) Programme has successfully established standards, specifications and best practices in all MRTD-related areas. Effective implementation of MRTD standards and specifications has been instrumental in increasing national and international security and promoting facilitation benefits.
ICAO is the only UN Specialized Agency that has the mandate and responsibility, as outlined in the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), of establishing, maintaining and promoting standards and recommended practices (SARPs) related to the issuance and verification of MRTDs, and related border control issues.
These SARPs are outlined in Annex 9 – Facilitation to the Chicago Convention, making them mandatory to all Contracting States. ICAO MRTD technical specifications are contained in Document 9303 and its Supplements, taking advantage of the latest and most efficient technologies available. In practical terms, ICAO Document 9303 is the ‘body of knowledge’ that outlines specifications for machine-readable passports, visas and ID cards, including biometric travel documents. Today Document 9303 is comprised of three comprehensive parts that elaborate on the state-of-the-art technical specifications. This all-important document will continue to expand and evolve in response to future needs.
The MRTD Programme continues receiving invaluable support from the TAG/MRTD and its working groups. The New Technologies Working Group (NTWG) continues developing MRTD specifications and incorporating newly-emerging technologies. The Implementation and Capacity-building Working Group (ICBWG), established two years ago, has been gaining momentum and expanding its activities in project development and implementation, capacity building and developing training programmes. The ICBWG has become an international framework that increasingly links the needs of States, technical expertise available and donor funding. In addition, the Chairs of TAG/MRTD and its working groups have been actively involved in defining the emerging mid-term MRTD Strategy. Ongoing contribution by the NTWG and ICBWG remains essential to the continuing success of the MRTD Programme.