New ePassport and eID for Finland : the art of secure documents


eID card in Finland

Last updated 16 March 2017

Finland became an independent state on December 6th 1917. And over the course of the last century, its citizens have frequently demonstrated the courage and determination necessary to forge one of the most democratic and progressive nations on the planet.

To outsiders, the country is perhaps most commonly perceived as the home of the sauna, Santa Claus and a stunning landscape characterized by some 168,000 lakes. But Finland is also the birthplace of Angry Birds and Clash of Clans: a trend-setting, design-focused nation that now leads where others follow.

So, it's no surprise that creative skills and inspiration can be found in abundance in the new Finnish Passport and eID documents that are being launched to coincide with Finland's centennial in 2017.

Let's see the story behind this ground-breaking project.

We'll also detail how the Finnish authorities have combined a commitment to putting public art in the hands of citizens with outstanding levels of security and convenience.

New passport for Finland

A new passport and ID design for Finland's birthday

From 2017 onwards, new ePassports and eID cards marking the 100th anniversary of Finland's independence will start to be rolled out.  The new biometric passports benefit from advanced security features and are fully compliant with ICAO requirements.

But that's far from the whole story.

The new passport design is literally a work of art.

Created in cooperation with the Finnish Police, the ​Finnish Immigration Service, the Border Guards, the Population Register Center and the Minisry of Foreign Affairs; and Gemalto's security design team, notable features include visual representations of Lapland scenery and Finland's national bird, the whooper swan. Under UV light, images of the Northern Lights and a snowflake appear.

There's more.

The work of Finland's national poet, Eino Leino, is also incorporated inside the booklet.

The new travel document can also be seen in the context of a friendly rivalry between Finland and its Nordic neighbors. It's probably no coincidence that Sweden and Norway have recently unveiled their own striking new ePassport designs. Finland's initiative therefore joins a much wider Scandinavian trend for prioritizing creativity in the development of identity credentials that engender a real sense of national pride.    

So where does Gemalto fit in?

Gemalto has been closely involved in this bold and ambitious project. In January 2016, a new multi-year contract was announced, which hands Gemalto responsibility for producing and personalizing hundreds of thousands of ePassports, national eIDs and eResidence Permit cards annually.

Delivered within hours: Finland's innovative passport and ID distribution network

Alongside a progressive design philosophy, the Finnish authorities have demonstrated equally innovative thinking in terms of making the process of applying for and collecting passports and IDs as easy as possible.

Consequently, the document will be issued to citizens within days or even hours, via a convenient nationwide network of trusted retail outlets and delivery points.

Let's take a closer look at how the system works.

Citizens can apply for the passport or ID online or at a police station, confirm their identity via national ID cards or BankID, and upload their digital portrait directly from a photo studio to the application form.

The applicant will be notified when the passport or eID card  is ready to be picked up from a 'Matkahuolto' collection point.

Responsible for operating bus stations and a parcel delivery service, Matkahuolto is ideally placed to support this initiative. From the beginning of 2017, in addition to regular passports, eID cards and fast-track and express passports can also be collected from Matkahuolto's collection points including grocery chain K-store and the R-kioski network of kiosks.

The number of pick up points has also increased and collection points can be found from every municipality across the country. For optimum convenience, citizens are free to choose their preferred pick-up location from over 700 collection points.

Protecting citizens with advanced security

Of course, when it comes to passport and identity credentials, convenience and creativity cannot be pursued at the expense of security.

The overriding goal of the Finnish authorities was to create documents that provide absolute trust in their authenticity.

This has been achieved by introducing a series of innovative security features.

All the design motifs and security features integrated in the new Finnish documents are fully compliant with ICAO 9303 specifications and supplements. They also adhere to best practice in terms of protection against forgery and counterfeiting.

In particular, these security features help by providing intuitive and easy to verify elements that are visible with the naked eye or by touch (tactile effects), thereby protecting both the document structure and personal data. 

So much for the theory…what does this mean in practice?

Tactile effects on the new Finnish passport
  New visual and tactile features  

Embedded in the surface of the polycarbonate data page of the new Finnish Passport, Gemalto's 3D Surface feature offers visual and tactile features of unrivaled accuracy. Examples include surface embossing, which is designed to counter the latest methods of forgery on existing security features, such as adding an additional overlay on top of the data page.

New optical elements strengthen security even further. Light reflections and animation effects, revealed by tilting the document at different angles, are combined with complex designs.

Passport security

A friendly ghost to better prevent from tampering

Window Lock security feature, a new photo protection element used in Finland's ePassport, prevents the bearer's portrait from being tampered with after issuance. It comprises a secondary portrait image known as a ghost image. This is personalized using a metallic foil by means of laser ablation, whereby the metallic foil is integrated into a window inside the body of the polycarbonate page.

The feature is integrated in the passport datapage and inside the body of the new eID polycarbonate​ card.

The result?

It delivers a unique inverse personalized ghost image stamped into metal foil and integrated into a transparent window as shown in the image above.

Benefits include:

  1. Easy-to-verify first-line security feature
  2. After it has been issued, it is impossible to add further image information through additional laser personalization
  3. Prevents simultaneous tampering of primary and secondary images
  4. Generates high-resolution metal ablation personalization with standard laser engraving equipment  
​​Security at the edge

Security at the edge

Finland's new passport also integrates the Gemalto Edge Sealer feature. This innovative feature provides strong resistance against delamination, tampering and cutting.

Laser-engraved marking is performed on the edge of the polycarbonate data page using a specially designed machine (in the example above: SUOMI FX 1234567). Because of the expertise and technology required, this is impossible to copy. The markings are visible to the naked eye (known as a Level 1 security feature), and can be verified with a magnifying glass (known as a Level 2 security feature).

Unique document design: It all adds up to something special

The overall design philosophy for the new biometric passport and national ID card is based on years of experience of real documents, in the field. Significantly, it encompasses feedback from the professionals and citizens that use these credentials on a daily basis.

Furthermore, this wealth of knowledge is combined with close co-operation and consultation with security experts and forensic laboratories, as well as the know-how of Gemalto's own dedicated team of engineers.

As a result, Finland has raised the bar.

Not just in terms of creativity and convenience, but also the level of protection provided for a centennial state and its forward-thinking citizens.

Secure passport design​​

Finally, how can we help you realize the benefits of secure passport design?

At Gemalto, we believe in taking a holistic approach to security. That's why we strive to provide secure, durable and innovative solutions.

As experts in both documents and related solutions, Gemalto strongly supports the ICAO TRIP (Traveler Identification Program) initiative and shares the vision that there must be a global fight against fraud by securing all links in the security chain.

We offer extensive experience and support, enabling our customers to meet their expectations for distinct and robust documents that are as secure as they are attractive. As a result, we're proud to have designed some of the most secure and attractive passports, IDs and driver licenses to appear in recent years.

Collaboration with customers lies at the heart of our process. We are therefore pleased to be able to share our best practices with you, in the Seven-step Guide to Passport Security Design published by Gemalto in September 2016.

If you have a question on 3D Surface, Window Lock or Edge Sealer feature, or would simply like more information on the Finnish ePassport project, please leave a comment in the box below.

….and for more on Finland's anniversary celebrations, visit www.s​uomifinland100.fi.​