Canada airports roll out biometric card

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is rolling out the world’s first dual biometric airport identification program, which is now operational at Canada’s 29 largest airports. The new Restricted Area Identity Card (RAIC) covers approximately 100,000 airport personnel who work in restricted areas of airports.

“CATSA is proud of this latest milestone in improving security. In partnership with Transport Canada and the airport authorities, we have created an innovative biometric program that leads the world in airport security for non-passengers,” said Jacques Duchesneau, CATSA President and Chief Executive Officer.

The RAIC integrates a small computer chip, including a microprocessor and memory to store biometric data of fingerprint and iris templates. The smart card is one component of an innovative program which also comprises fingerprint and iris readers, plus a network of infrastructure linking 29 airports to a secure central database.

“Airport security is a priority for this Government. We take a layered approach to security to ensure that there are multiple measures in place”, said Minister Cannon. “The Restricted Area Identity Card not only verifies that the person who was issued the card is the same person presenting the card at a restricted area access point in the airport, but it also verifies whether or not the card is still valid and that the individual has a current security clearance.”

Phase I of RAIC deployment focuses on areas within the Air Terminal Buildings. A second phase to address all other areas within the airport’s security perimeter, including vehicle gates, fixed base operations, and tenant facilities, is being planned.


To enter a restricted area, the airport worker swipes the RAIC in front of the reader, then uses either his fingerprint or iris. The iris or fingerprint must match the encrypted template embedded in the RAIC. Otherwise, access is denied. Before the introduction of the RAIC, restricted area passes were validated manually by a guard at the entrance of the secure zone. The RAIC confirms the identity of the cardholder through the card and biometric matching. It also confirms that the cardholder has a valid Transportation Security Clearance.

CATSA developed and deployed the technology, including the smart card and fingerprint and iris readers. The 29 airports are responsible for access control and enrolling airport personnel into the new program. Transport Canada issues security clearances to airport workers, and establishes and enforces the regulations regarding RAIC.