Viewing the content of your New Zealand ePassport

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-May-2013 08:13

If you’ve had a New Zealand passport issued since November 2005 you would have spotted the Near Field Communication (NFC) page in your passport. This solid page contains a NFC chip which duplicates the data printed in your passport electronically, and also contains a digital copy of your photo along with the biometric data relating to this photo.

An ePassport is now mandatory for visiting a number of countries, and if you’ve been to Australia in the past couple of years chances are you’ve used a Smartgate machine at the airport rather than having to be processed manually by Customs. The Smartgate kiosk reads the biometric data from your passport  and when your photo is taken it is compared to the biometric data in your passport to establish a positive match.

If you have a modern Android phone with NFC capabilities you can easily view the contents of this NFC chip.

Download the  NFC Tag Info app from the Play store to your Android phone, and once installed click on the app to run it. If you now try and read your passport you’ll see an error come up saying “Basic Access Control is active”. BAC is an security layer protecting your passport from being accessed without an encryption key, essentially preventing your ePassport from being read by somebody who doesn’t have physical access to the passport. The BAC encryption key is generated using your passport number, date of birth, and passport expiry date – data that is only printed inside your passport.

If you now go back to the main menu you’ll see an option to “setup access keys”. enter your passport number, date of birth and passport expiry date and press save. This will generate the encryption key required to read your passport.

epassport 2 

If you now put your phone next to your passport the app will be able to read the NFC chip and you should see your passport details and photo appear on the screen.

epassport 1 modified

A number of other details can be viewed, including the biometric data for your photo and the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) data which is the machine readable text that appears at the bottom of  your passport photo page.

To change electronic details of a passport additional layers of encryption exist also – you can’t change your details simply by having the BAC encryption key as this allows read only access.

If you’re interested in knowing more here are a few links you might want to check out:

Other related posts:
Fairfax takes journalism ethics and integrity to a whole new low with Stuff fibre
Why are airport taxes and service charges so high on Trans Tasman flights between New Zealand and Australia?
Flight reviews – Air New Zealand NZ87 Auckland (AKL) to Hong Kong (HKG) in Premium Economy and Air New Zealand NZ 80 Hong Kong (HKG) to Auckland (AKL) in Business Premier on the 777-200ER

Comment by juha, on 10-May-2013 13:37

Works! Looks like you have to place the phone so that it covers the thick page completely, otherwise you get a "tag removed" error and not all the data is read.

Comment by muppet, on 10-May-2013 22:27

How do I do this on my iPhone?

Also, because Australian passports are better, this doesn't work on them.

Comment by kiwitrc, on 11-May-2013 05:53

Muppet, you can only read Apple Passports with an iPhone.

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sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at