March 2009 saw the announcement that Thales would continue to deliver its ID cards to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the next three years as well as supplying support and maintenance to the Riyadh personalisation centre.
The credit-card sized ID documents are mandatory for all citizens aged 15 and over.
According to the Ministry of Interior, the national ID cards are valid for ten years.
National eID card scheme
The ID cards contain the holder’s digital information such as demographics, facial image and fingerprints and can also be used as a travel document. They feature a bar code and optical stripe to ensure enhanced security and offer a digital signature through a PKI application.
Saudi Arabia’s eID programme was launched in December 2007. Thales has already delivered the first phase of cards and its secure Gemalto Issuance personalisation solution as well as installing the centralised card personalisation system in Riyadh.
The ID card contains several data fields for:
- Biographic information
- Health information
- Family information
- Finger Print
- Driving Licence
- Emergency contacts.
Biometric technology in KSA
The Ministry of Interior started to implement the use of fingerprints for the national ID card in 2005 following a decision by the council of ministers.
In January 2016, to protect national security, the Saudi Ministry of Interior announced that buyers of SIM cards would be fingerprinted.
This decision is resulting from new legislation drafted by the country’s Communications, and Information Technology Commission and all Mobile Network Operators in the Kingdom must now collect the fingerprint biometrics of new subscribers.
Fingerprints will be shared with the kingdom’s National Information Centre to verify the identity of buyers.
Fingerprints of foreigners living in the country have been captured as well.
According to Arab News of 08 May 2018, nearly all of the estimated 12.2 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia have had their fingerprints taken.
Saudi Arabia stands beside Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda,Zambia but also Peru, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, the UAE with mandatory biometric SIM registration laws.
More on biometrics in Saudi Arabia in our web dossier.