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What Are The Most Unique Identity Documents In The World?

ID documents come in numerous shapes, sizes and forms, and at Veriff we can already verify over 8000 of them. So we decided to take a look at some of the most unique documents out there.

AuthorPatrick Johnson, August 25th, 2020

An identity document is a very valuable document that is used to prove a person’s identity. They can take make forms – from ID cards, to driver’s licenses, to passports and digital IDs – and it is crucial that each one is unique and has specific features that allow it to be verified.

The unique features of many identity documents make it very hard for criminals to create fraudulent copies in order to steal someone’s identity or carry out unlawful activity. The rarer an identity document is, the better it is at protecting its holder.

Here at Veriff we make it our business to be able to verify real identity documents and part of this is creating a robust system that allows us to recognize and process genuine documents – whether they are digital or otherwise.

These days, digital identification is usually a critical part of identity verification, and many paper identity documents also have a digital element to them (like biometrics chips in passports) a digital counterpart, or a corresponding ID number that can be used online to access a range of services.

Each country tends to have a list of ‘state-approved’ identity documents that are rare, unique and protected enough to be trusted by financial institutions and when carrying out sensitive activity.

For example, in the UK, the list of primary identity credentials comprises of a driving license photo card, a valid passport, a birth certificate, a biometric residence permit and an adoption certificate. In most cases, a person will need to be able to produce one of these verified and unique identity documents in order to do things like open a bank account, apply for a mortgage or go on holiday.

Some identity documents around the world are harder to obtain than others. For example, applicants have to complete a first aid course before they are allowed to get a Hungarian driving license; Finnish drivers have to complete two years of intense training before they can get a driving license and, up until 2002, women in Lithuania had to undergo a gynaecological examination before they could get a driving license!

So, what are some of the most rare, hard to get and unique identity documents in the world?

Indian Aadhaar system

Indian biometric ID documents certainly aren’t rare, as there are more than a billion now in existence for Indian citizens, but the system is certainly unique.

When it was first announced, many people thought that the Indian Government’s plan to get biometric data – fingerprint and iris scans – of a billion people was far too complex and thus, impossible. However, they have proved the naysayers wrong.

The system is called ‘Aadhaar’, which means ‘foundation’ and it certainly is the foundation for a very robust digital system that helps to tackle benefit fraud. It is now regularly described as the largest and most sophisticated ID database in the world".

It is thought that 90% of Indians are now registered on the system and data has been collected through a variety of means such as in schools, hospitals, childcare centers and special camps.

Each citizen’s Aadhaar, or Unique Identification Number, is theirs for life and will remain part of their national identity document forever. It has now become nearly impossible to do anything without it such as registering to vote, paying taxes, getting a driver’s license, opening a bank account or filing a tax return.

We’re sure you agree that the Indian identity document is one of the most unique and robust out there!

Estonian National ID card

Estonia is considered by many to have one of the most sophisticated and highly developed national ID systems in the world. Not only does it provide a legal photo ID for the holder, but it also provides access to all of Estonia’s secure e-services.

The cards were first introduced in 2002, with the latest version of the cards were introduced in December 2018 and the newest system took 18 months of preparation. Experts from across the country were consulted during the process, including Estonian Forensic Science Institute and Enterprise Estonia.

The cards themselves feature a color photo, a transparent window and an invisible secondary photograph that only appears when viewed at a certain angle. They also feature a QR code that makes it even easier to check that they are valid.

As identity documents go, the Estonian National ID card is pretty special and unique, and it has even received an ID document award that recognizes outstanding achievement and technical sophistication of a document.

Now that’s an accolade that every ID document surely dreams of!

Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Our next contender in our shortlist for the ‘most rare, hard to get and unique identity document in the world’ is the passport given to certain members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Malta is a Mediterranean sovereignty that was recognized by Pope Paschal in 1113. It is also home to the world’s rarest passport – the diplomatic passport.

At last count, only 500 of these diplomatic passports were in circulation. They are only granted to “the members of the Sovereign Council (the government), to heads and members of its Diplomatic Missions (as well as their consort and minor children), and – with very few exceptions – to senior figures in charge of a special missions within the Order of Malta.”

The Order of Malta itself is made up of approximately 13,500 knights, dames, and chaplains along with 80,000 permanent volunteers and 25,000 employees, so it shows how rare the diplomatic passport is, even amongst this distinctive crowd.

The passport isn’t just a coveted identity document, it is also protected by robust biometric data and is a useful travel document as well – The Sovereign Order of Malta has diplomatic relations with 106 states meaning it can be used to gain entry into all of those countries.  

Passports

We all know that we need authorization to travel from one country to another, and authorization comes in the form of a passport.

Passports are official documents issued by governments that bear an individual’s likeness in the form of a photo, as well as other personal information and sometimes even biometric data. Specifically, they serve as an authentication of a person’s unique identity.

Every country’s passport is unique and special in some way. They come in different colors and textures, containing differing content, and are considered to have varying levels of power depending on how many countries they allow the carrier to enter.

So, how do countries make their passports unique? Some do it through sophisticated design and others through electronic tags. These designs not only make the passports aesthetically pleasing, but they also make them much harder to replicate and forge.

Two of the world’s most unique passports are as follows:

Canada

Although the Canadian passport looks rather ordinary at first glance with its navy-blue cover and coat of arms, its pages hold a secret. In order to make it a more robust and verifiable identity document, it has an extremely unique design that includes important Canadian historical figures and buildings and symbols. When seen under a black light, the artwork becomes illuminated and its national icons like Niagara Falls, parliament hill, and maple leaves glow in a myriad of colors.

Australia

The Australian passport is another one that looks plain from the outside but provides a treat to the eyes once opened. Its pages pay tribute to the country’s unique biology and landscape, hidden security marks are featured on many of the pages and there is even a magical floating kangaroo which is extremely difficult to forge.

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