By Rob Haslam, Government ID Solutions, HID Global
The use of credentials employing multiple technologies to address a variety of functions is quickly moving from the exception to the rule, especially in major government-to-citizen ID programs. A pioneer in the use of multiple secure identity technologies in a single card is the U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), which incorporates optical security media for both visual and data security and an RFID tag for streamlined border crossing.
For more than 15 years, the U.S. Green Card has exemplified a standard for uncompromised security. Even before September 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was under pressure to control illegal immigration and meet legislative requirements for biometric-based ID credentials. In short, the agency needed an ironclad ID solution to prevent widespread counterfeiting and to uphold its international standing as a strong and effective immigration agency.
With a clear objective — deploy the most counterfeit-resistant document possible with secure portable data storage – the USCIS, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, and HID Global collaborated on a host of innovations that included a multi-technology design incorporating tamper-proof optical security media. Now the prime contractor on the U.S. Green Card program, HID Global manages the program from concept to implementation.
What is the U.S. Green Card?
The U.S. Green Card or Permanent Resident Card authorizes the holder of the card to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. It also serves as evidence of registration in accordance with U.S. immigration laws. Newly issued Green Cards are valid for ten years for lawful permanent residents and two years for conditional residents. The permanent resident must renew his or her card each time it expires. And for the curious, the U.S. Green Card is colored green.
Why a multi-technology solution?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) faces the ongoing challenge to deter immigration fraud. State-of-the-art technology prevents counterfeiting, obstructs tampering and facilitates quick and accurate authentication of the Green Card. The multi-technology design provided by HID Global helps the USCIS better serve law enforcement, employers, and immigrants; all of who look to the Green Card as definitive proof of authorization to live and work in the United States.
State-of-the-art security technology
USCIS, in collaboration with HID Global, redesigned the U.S. Green Card in 2010 to incorporate several major new security features including:
– Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) capability to allow Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry to read the Green Card from a distance and compare it immediately to file data.
– Secure optical media to store biometrics for rapid and reliable identification of the card holder.
– Holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints and high resolution micro-images to make the card nearly impossible to reproduce.
– Tighter integration of the card design with personalized elements to make it difficult, if not impossible, to alter the card if stolen.
– Pre-printed return address enables the quick and easy return of a lost card to USCIS.
RFID cards with optical security media
At the request of the USCIS and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, HID Global pioneered the combination of an RFID tag with optical security media to create the next-generation U.S. Green Card. The U.S. Green Card was the world’s first implementation of a combined optical security media and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag on a single card. Combining RFID tags and optical media in a single credential balances two superficially conflicting objectives:
1) The convenience of efficient and speedy movement through a secure access point.
2) The overarching requirement for the highest levels of credential security.
The RFID component facilitates more efficient transition through land border checkpoints, while the optical media delivers tamper-proof, eye-visible security features. Visual security features such as a personalized embedded hologram enables inspectors to quickly and easily authenticate a credential, even when electronic readers are not available. By providing an additional ‘visual’ security layer, such multi-purpose cards help bridge the gap created when technology resources such as card readers or network connections are unavailable, while significantly reinforcing visual card inspection wherever it is required.
From concept to implementation – a fully integrated approach
The size, scale and demands of today’s multi-functional ID programs require that government agencies partner with those experts that can help them best build and manage such sophisticated identity projects. These strategic partnerships result in greater cost efficiencies and economies of scale. Decision makers should not only look for organizations that can design, build, integrate and deploy solutions; but should also look for those that have expert program managers who can help reduce program risk while building long-term value. By deploying a single company offering ongoing subject matter expertise and a single point-of-contact as well as the responsibility for the credentials themselves; government authorities worldwide can benefit from expedited trouble-shooting, risk mitigation strategies and the reduced need for internal training.
Conclusion: The Growth of Multi-Technology ID Credentials
It is anticipated that government agencies will continue to embrace multi-technology secure ID solutions. Beyond the United States, countries such as Italy, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica and Angola have all built multi-technology secure ID platforms for use in a range of e-government solutions. For example, Germany has recently deployed one of the most advanced and highly sophisticated contactless smart card programs to date, that also encompasses many unique features and services.
Optical security, RFID tags and integrated circuit chips each offer unique advantages. By combining two or more of these technologies on to a single card; issuers can realize the cost, efficiency and security benefits inherent in a credential that verifies identity, accesses e-government services, facilitates efficient border crossings and physical access, all with the highest level of counterfeit resistance.
The new U.S. Green Card is the world’s leading government ID card in terms of technology and user utility according to an independent report published by Frost & Sullivan in 2010. In this report, the research firm ascribed the card as setting a new standard for international ID programs through its innovative application of security methods and technology. According to Frost & Sullivan, the card scored particularly well due to the extreme levels of security large data storage capacity, the presence of an RFID chip and the flexibility provided by its optical security media. It was also recognized for overall program delivery including the interoperability of program elements from concept to implementation.