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Document security

Passports, residence permits or visas are used for travel purposes or as a proof of identity. Therefore, the security of these documents is essential. To improve it, the EU has decided to equip them with advanced security features and biometrics (facial image and fingerprints). This set of measures helps to fight against the falsification and counterfeiting of travel documents, while biometric identifiers establish a reliable link between the document and its holder.


Passports issued by EU States to their citizens have the common "recommended" lay out. They are burgundy in colour and have the words “European Union” printed on the cover, accompanied by the name of the issuing EU State.

According to EU law, passports must incorporate a storage medium (a chip) that contains the holder's facial image and fingerprints. This obligation does not apply to identity cards or to temporary passports and travel documents with a validity of one year or less. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not bound by these rules, whereas Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are.

Residence permits

The EU has also established a uniform format for non-EU nationals' residence permits (consolidated version of May 2008), which is used by all EU States as well as by Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. These residence permits are issued as stand-alone documents and include the same biometric features as the EU passports. A residence card of a family member of a Union citizen is issued to non-EU national family members of an EU citizen who is exercising his/her right to free movement.

A uniform format for visas

All EU States as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein also use a uniform format for visas (consolidated version of October 2013).

However, the visa holder's biometric identifiers will not be stored in the visa sticker itself, but in a database (Visa Information System).

Distinguishing false and authentic documents

A European Image Archiving System – FADO (False and Authentic Documents) has been set up to facilitate exchanges of information between EU States. It provides for the rapid validation, storage and exchange of information on genuine and false documents by computerised means. Distinguishing between false and authentic documents is also important for citizens, organisations and businesses. Therefore, the EU has made available a Public Register of Authentic Identity and Travel Documents Online (PRADO).

Additional tools

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Related legislation
and documents


Visa sticker

The uniform format for visas as defined by Regulation 1683/95.


Visa Information System (VIS)

A system for the exchange of visa data between Schengen States, which enables authorised national authorities to ...


Visa (short stay) (Schengen visa)

An authorisation issued by a Schengen State with a view to: - transit through or an intended stay in the territory ...


Uniform visa

A visa valid for the entire territory of the Schengen States.


Travel document

A passport or other equivalent document entitling the holder to cross the external borders and to which a visa ...


Right to freedom of movement

A fundamental right of every citizen of an EU State or another European Economic Area (EEA) State or Switzerland ...


Residence permit

Any authorisation issued by the authorities of an EU State allowing a non-EU national to stay legally in its territory,...


Non-EU national

Any person not having the nationality of an EU State.



A logical collection of information that is interrelated and that is managed and stored as a unit, for example in the ...



A measurable unique, physical characteristic or personal behavioural trait used to recognize the identity, or verify ...