Portugal’s Citizen Card: Key features and benefits

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Building an infrastructure of trust is high on agenda of each government. To that end, departments provide unique identification often printed and distributed on physical cards to citizens to allow them avail government services. In today’s digital world, all government services are going online. To access these services, providing an eID (Electronic Identification cards) to enable citizens authenticate and transact online for public services is a priority requirement. The challenge for governments with departments operating in silos are many. Other than not being able to interoperate or perform activities related to forensic intelligence,  government finds it difficult to keep up with the growing number of cards that citizens or other entities have to hold for availing national/ state services. The departments not only have to issue and maintain eID and associated infrastructure, but also ensure that these eIDs are not forged or used for fraudulent activities.


One of the goal of eID card is to identify individual. The Citizen card can be used as a Proof of Identity before any public or private entity. The card is mandatory for all Portuguese citizens and should be requested with in 20 days after the birth registration of baby. These are digitally enabled card  made of Polycarbonate, and include high security printing features. The card is a smart card, and carries a chip capable of storing encrypted personal data. Moreover, measures have been taken to prevent abuse of card such as medical information cannot be accessed by officer from financial department, who may access financial information of the individual. The issuance of card is controlled and only be issued in Lisbon.

“If the card holder is under 25 years old, the period of validity is 5 years. From 25 years of age, the period of validity is 10 years.”

The Citizen Card of Portugal replaces 5 different physical ID documents:

  1. Civil identification card – the former paper based ID
  2. Taxation Card (fiscal identification)
  3. Voting Card
  4. Social Security Card
  5. Healthcare Card

The other goal that the card is used for is online authentication and electronic signatures. This feature gives citizens security assurance while conducting e-commerce transactions as transactions are carried out using cryptographic means. To identify and authenticate themselves, cardholders enter a secret PIN code, and then the card generates a digital signature for secure declarations and carrying out e-administrative procedures.


The Portuguese constitution forbids a single central database for names. Key innovations built into the card to circumvent the need for a centralized database are:


  • A convenience feature available with card is that other identifiers such as Civil ID number, social security number, tax number, healthcare user number can be found on the card.
  • The card also saves biometric information such as finger print. Biometric credentials never leave the smart card. This also eliminates the risk of interception of data during the transfer to a reader. The card comes with embedded processor, that carries out the check and answers “yes” or “no” to the question. The card uses “Match-on-Card” technology on the card.
A demo of Match-on-card technology

Citizen card can also be used as a valid travel document within all of Europe and several other nations such as Egypt, Georgia, Tunisia and Turkey. 


Till June 30, 2019, more than 5,598,640 authentications have been done using Citizen Card. The authentication service is free for bodies, entities and for the users. 

Further Readings

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