Date of birth structures in travel documents (MRZ, MRC, VIZ) and how to record them
This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.
Accuracy is a key consideration in date of birth identification and recording, as it can have a significant impact on a client’s ease of travel, access to Canada and access to Canadian services. It enhances program integrity and improves operational efficiency. Below are the descriptions of the following sections of travel documents:
- Machine Readable Zone (MRZ)
- Visual Inspection Zone (VIZ)
- Machine Readable Chip (MRC)
Attention visa application centres (VACs)
If you are unable to record an incomplete date of birth in the Canadian Immigration Biometric Identification System (CIBIDS), due to security partner system limitation, please enter comments into the Notes field of CIBIDS to advise immigration officers that an arbitrary date of birth (01) was assigned, and a correction must be made to the client’s date of birth.
As the biometric collection system used at United States (U.S.) application support centers (ASCs) does not have a notes function, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers on site at U.S. ASCs should send an email to the Biometrics Operational Support Unit (BOSU) at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) headquarters, advising of the arbitrary assignment of the client’s date of birth. The BOSU will, in turn, enter these comments in the Global Case Management System Notes field to inform the responsible IRCC office.
Attention officers processing applications from VACs
Ensure the accuracy and correctness of the date of birth on the application and the date of birth on the travel document. If an arbitrary date of birth was assigned at the VAC, correct the arbitrarily assigned date of birth to match the information on the travel document.
On this page
- Zones on passports and travel documents
- How to read an MRZ
- How to read a VIZ
- When date of birth in a VIZ does not match date of birth in an MRZ
Zones on passports and travel documents
Sample Canadian passport
The Visual Inspection Zone of a Canadian passport contains the following categories:
Issuing Country: CAN
Given names: SARAH
Date of birth: 01 JAN 85
Place of birth: OTTAWA CAN
Date of issue: 14 JAN 13
Date of expiry: 14 JAN 23
Issuing Authority: Gatineau
The Machine Readable Zone of the passport contains the following characters:
In the above character sequence, the numbers 850101 refer to the year, day and month of the passport holder’s birth.
How to read an MRZ
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards require the date of birth to be displayed in the lower MRZ line, between character numbers 14 to 19.
The date of birth in the MRZ is shown as a 6-digit number, composed of the last 2 digits of the year (YY), immediately followed by 2 digits that represent the month (MM) and by 2 digits that represent the day (DD). The structure is YYMMDD.
The MRZ is the main area that should be relied on to establish the client’s date of birth. When recording dates of birth in the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) system of record, the officer should insert 4 digits for the value of the year of birth, 2 digits for the value of the month of birth and 2 digits for the value of the day of birth that appear on the applicant’s foreign passport or travel document.
Note: ICAO standards require the date of birth recorded by the MRC of an e-passport to match the date of birth values and format as they appear in the MRZ.
Unknown date of birth elements in an MRZ
ICAO standards require that, in cases where all or part of the date of birth is unknown, the relevant character positions be completed with filler characters (<).
If the foreign passport or travel document does not list a complete date of birth, an incomplete date of birth should be recorded in the IRCC system of record. The officer should insert the value “*” for the unknown elements of the client’s date of birth that appear on their foreign passport or travel document when recording the client’s date of birth in the IRCC system of record.
Furthermore, if a complete or incomplete date of birth is not available, a date of birth should not be created. When recording the client’s date of birth in the IRCC system of record, the officer should insert the value “**” for unknown date of birth elements (day, month or year).
How to read a VIZ
ICAO standards require that the date of birth format of the VIZ on a travel document be entered in accordance with the Gregorian calendar.
Days are shown as a 2-digit number, that is, dates from 1 to 9 are preceded by a zero. This entire number is followed by a blank space.
The month is printed in the language of the issuing state or organization, or it is abbreviated, using
up to 4 character positions.
Where the language of the issuing state or organization is not English, French or Spanish, the month (or its abbreviation, up to 4 characters, as defined in the table below) is followed by an oblique character (/) and the month (or its abbreviation, up to 4 characters), in 1 of the 3 languages, as shown in the table below.
Abbreviations of months in English, French and Spanish
Note: As indicated in the example above, where the language of the issuing state or organization is English, French or Spanish, the issuing state or organization should use 1 of the other 2 languages (shown in the table above), following the oblique character (/).
The month, however, may be printed in numerical form in the VIZ, at the discretion of the issuing state or organization, particularly when it might facilitate the use of machine-readable passports by countries that do not use the Gregorian calendar. In these cases, the date of birth should appear in the VIZ as MM DD YY. In addition, when the month is represented numerically, the issuing state or organization may use the 4-digit representation of the year in the VIZ, for example, 12 07 1942.
The year is normally shown as the last 2 digits and preceded by a blank space.
Unknown date of birth elements in a VIZ
ICAO standards require that, when a date of birth is completely unknown, the unknown date of birth may be encoded according to the date format used for dates of birth by that issuing authority.
- XX XX XX (DD MM YY)
- XX XX XXXX (DD MM YYYY)
- XX XXX XX (DD MMM YY)
If only part of the date of birth is unknown, that part may be represented by XX, XXX or XXXX, depending on the format used for dates of birth by the issuing authority.
When date of birth in a VIZ does not match date of birth in an MRZ
The officer should cross reference the date of birth data in the VIZ and MRZ to ensure that they match.
If the VIZ and MRZ numbers do not match, the document may be altered. If an IRCC officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a document was altered, the document in question must be seized (if a physical copy of the document is available) and referred to the office’s respective program integrity unit for further review. The program integrity unit then submits the document to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for investigation, per ENF 12, section 9.4. When seizing documents abroad, the officer should refer to ENF 12, section 9.5, as the seizure of documents is dependent on the local environment in which the CBSA liaison officers and IRCC visa officers work and the type of partnership or arrangements they have with local enforcement agencies, airlines and other foreign-based visa offices with whom they interact.
If an IRCC officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an altered document was uploaded to an applicant’s electronic application, the officer may request the original document from the application and follow the procedures outlined in Document examinations and seizures.
If the IRCC officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a document was not altered and that the date of birth was incorrectly transposed, or there was a typographical error, the following actions must be taken:
- The client must be contacted and asked to explain the discrepancy between the VIZ and MRZ.
- The foreign passport must be returned to the client to correct the error by obtaining an official amendment to their foreign passport.
- The client’s date of birth should be finalized only when the amended foreign passport is received.
- The incorrect date of birth should be recorded as an alias.
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