Are Your ID Cards FIPS 201 Compliant?

  • February 26th, 2016

Having worked with many Federal agencies and government contractors, the ID Edge team has received lots of questions over the years about Federal Information Processing Standards – FIPS 201 – and which printers are the most compatible. It’s an important consideration, because any Federal agency (or contractor that works with Federal agencies) must issue ID cards that are in compliance with this regulation. Further, since this guidance was updated fairly recently (FIPS 201-2 came out in August of 2013), the regulatory updates can be confusing for agencies and contractors looking to buy new ID card printers.

FIPS 201 printers

Please note that this article mostly focuses on ID card printer requirements to be in compliance with FIPS 201-2. If you have any questions about FIPS-compliant printers or card readers, please give us a call at 800-798-3343.

FIPS 201 Overview

FIPS 201 was designed to create guidance for meeting the standards and minimum requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 (HSPD-12), signed on August 27, 2004. This directive was part of a larger effort to improve Personal Identity Verification (PIV) systems across different Federal agencies, in an effort to foster greater collaboration. Some argue that this step was long overdue, and was the outgrowth of our country’s increased efforts in the war on terror.

To that end, FIPS 201 focuses on ensuring secure processes storing information on ID cards that prevent information skimming and counterfeiting, and at the same time standardize information retrieval by authorized government ID systems.

The idea behind HSPD-12 and FIPS 201 is to standardize controls and methodologies for verifying the identity of individuals seeking access to Federal facilities and federal information systems. Previously, different agencies would often have varying ways to identify individuals, and used different types of ID cards and PIV methods to verify an individual’s identity to grant access.

By making PIV systems standardized, identification methods have become more compatible across different agencies. At first, this may seem to be a matter of convenience and authentication speed. But it’s really more than that…When all agencies use similar PIV authentication standards, it breeds security habits and controls that are much more uniform. This, in turn, reduces chances of human error and lapses in security protocols – an indispensable aspect of helping secure America.

FIPS 201 Specification Highlights

In order to understand which ID card printers are best suited for meeting FIPS 201 requirements, we first have to consider some of the required attributes of these PIV cards. Here are just some of the highlights about the necessary features that the cards must have:

  • PIV cards must have one or more integrated circuit chips (ICC) for information storage and to interface with chip readers. The card also must have a contact and a contactless ICC interface.
  • Per FIPS 201, images and text cannot rub off during the life of the card. (Sublimation printing is more effective in terms of longevity of printed images and text. Though both sublimation and resin-printed cards can be effectively protected against rubbing by applying strong laminates.)
  • Printing process must be clean and efficient, without dirt or debris being deposited on the rollers during printing or laminating. This means the printer has to be of very high quality design; as such debris deposits can easily distort images and text, compromising the effectiveness of the ID card.
  • The printed information and any applied laminates cannot cover or interfere with any of the integrated circuit chips. This means that the ID card printer must be a high-precision device that will not overlap the text or laminates with the chip(s) embedded into the card.
  • To comply with FIPS 201, ID cards must also have at least one tamper/counterfeit-proof features. These include things like holograms, water marks, and laser etchings, among others. The ID printer you choose for your agency or contracting firm must be able to accommodate at least one of these features.
  • Card laminate must be strong enough to withstand cleaning with soap and water.
  • The card must be able to withstand approximately 2,000 hours of sunlight. For this requirement, special laminates can be used to extend the longevity of the ink. Also, the resin printing method may yield better results if used with a laminate without UV protection.
  • Card thickness must be 27-33 millimeters thick, before the lamination procedure. Your ID card printer must be able to effectively accommodate these cards without jamming.
  • The ID card will need to have a photo of the holder, with the image being at least 300 dpi.
  • There are several specific requirements for printed information on the front and the back of the card. Because of this, many agency and contractor organizations opt for a dual-sided ID card printer, to eliminate potential issues during the printing process.

Please keep in mind that these are just some of the main requirements of FIPS 201. To find the best FIPS 201-compliant ID printer for your needs, please give us a call at 800-798-3343, to discuss your needs in greater detail.

Additional FIPS 201 Requirements for Logical Access PIV Cards

ID cards meant for logical access (to computer and data systems) have a variety of additional requirements, including a PIN, fingerprint templates, and electronic facial image, among others. Because not all ID card printers can meet these additional FIPS 201 requirements, please give us a call at 800-798-3343 to further discuss the best printer models for your needs.

FIPS 201-Approved Printer Models

Although the FIPS 201 ID card requirements are quite extensive, they do leave room for some custom-tailoring to the specific needs of each agency. To help you in your selection / research process, here is a list of some our most popular printers that are FIPS 201 compliant:

FIPS 201 Help

We’ve been working with Federal agencies and government contractors for the last three decades, since before FIPS 201 was created. This experience has given us a deep insight into various Federal agency requirements and how different standards evolved over time, eventually converging into FIPS 201 guidelines.

With this expertise, we’ve been able to help many agencies and contractors find the best ID printer solutions to ensure they are in full compliance and are able to follow best credential-printing practices. If you’re looking for a FIPS 201-approved printer and have any questions, please give us a call at 800-798-3343, or just email us thru the Contact Form, below.

Questions? Get in touch. Call us at (800) 798-3343, use live-chat or fill out the form below

Join Our Newsletter
Sign up to receive exclusive offers and more from ID Edge!