Countries without Biometric Identity Documents

A third of the countries in the world lack any kind of identity documents with biometric identification (i.e., biometric passports OR biometric identity cards): as of 2023 this proportion may seen to be very high, but they only comprise 6.7% of the world population because this list is overpopulated by small island-nations.

Other interesting statistics:

  • Most are low-income countries, with the notable exception of Bahrain.
  • If the 5 most populated countries (i.e., Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Myanmar, and Yemen) would adopt biometric identity documents, then the proportion of the world population without access to biometric identity documents would fall to 2.2% (i.e., the distribution approximately follows a power-law).
  • There are only 6 Spanish-speaking countries in the list, with a total population of 46.436.032: Guatemala, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Equatorial Guinea.
  • 2 countries (Vietnam and Jamaica) got out this list because they recently adopted biometric identity cards, but their passports aren’t yet biometric.
  • The number of people without any kind of official proof of identity has been reduced to 850MM from 1B in 2018, according to the ID4D at the World Bank.
  • Since Bitcoin was launched in 2009, the list has grown by 2.5x: it wouldn’t have been practical to launch Bitcoin with support for biometric passports because they weren’t distributed enough (e.g., the identity cards of the European Union become standardized on the ICAO standard in August 2021) and not many smartphones were equipped with NFC readers (e.g., mobile apps for the iPhone couldn’t access this feature until September 2019).

Table with the list of countries (ordered by population):