The New Austrian Identity Card: Modern and Forgery-proof

Lifestyle & TravelMore+ ♦ Published: August 6, 2021; 16:08 ♦ (Vindobona)

Experts from the Austrian Ministry of the Interior, Federal Criminal Police Office, and Austrian State Printing House have developed a modern and more secure identity card. The release of the cards is accompanied by a new mobile phone app that allows users to verify the authenticity of the new cards.

"This criminal phenomenon is so threatening that at the European level, document forgery is described as one of the three main drivers of organized crime." / Picture: © BMI Bundesministerium für Inneres / Gerd Pachauer

Austria has released a new, more secure identity card as well as the “CHECK-AT” mobile phone app that helps verify the authenticity of the new cards.

“Modern and forgery-proof identity cards are a crucial basis for a functioning security infrastructure,” said Dr. Franz Ruf, Director General for Public Security at the Federal Ministry of the Interior, at the presentation of the new identity card and the “CHECK-AT” app.

The ID card was developed in close cooperation between experts from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Austrian State Printing House. The State Printing House also designed the associated verification app.

Lukas Praml, Managing Director of the Austrian State Printing House, emphasized, “Every ID card only develops its protective effect for personal identity if it can be verified easily and securely at the same time.”

With the chip for biometric data already familiar from the passport, as well as a new, personalized QR code and other security elements, such as a see-through window with temperature-dependent color, the new generation of the ID card brings a number of improved security features.

In addition to a modern and secure document, a modern and secure way for digitally supported document verification has also been developed: The "CHECK-AT" app. Available for iOS and Android, the smartphone app guides users through the process of checking the digital and analog security features of the new ID card, helping them to assess whether they have a genuine document.

The new ID card can be applied for at passport authorities and authorized municipalities as of August 2, 2021. Identity cards issued before then will also remain valid.

Document forgery as a driver for crime

Forged or falsified documents enable criminal activities such as human or drug trafficking, trafficking in weapons or stolen vehicles. However, document forgery is also one of the bases for white-collar crime, corruption, property crime and terrorism. “This criminal phenomenon is so threatening that at the European level, document forgery is described as one of the three main drivers of organized crime,” Dr. Ruf said.

The high number of document forgeries is due in part to the fact that forgeries require only limited sophisticated tools or excessive investment - computers with scanners and printing machines are most commonly used to imitate the original security features. The continuous development of Austrian identity documents and the implementation of new security features ensure that Austrian documents are and remain unattractive to counterfeiters and criminals due to the extremely high effort required. This is also the reason why Austrian travel documents are rarely forged or falsified by criminals. If forgeries of Austrian documents do come into circulation, it is mainly abroad.

About 200,000 identity cards are issued in Austria every year. According to a study by FRONTEX, an average of 300 counterfeit or falsified Austrian documents, such as passports, fake entry stamps or identity cards, have been seized in the European Union every year since 2018. “This is precisely why it is important that the verification of identity documents is not only possible for trained police officers, but also for citizens,” stressed Dr. Ruf.

Austrian Ministry of the Interior