Issued: June 1992
Revised: July 2006
The Government Security Policy (GSP) states the requirements for protecting government personnel, assets, information and operations. Threats in both Canada and abroad including violence toward employees, unauthorized access, theft, fraud, vandalism and other malicious activity could be minimized or prevented completely if individuals with malevolent intent are not able to gain access to government sites. Similarly, it is vital to government operations that its personnel and other authorized individuals are able to reflect their status through an identification process which merits the confidence of both the public and private sectors.
Transnational criminal activity, foreign intelligence activities and terrorism continue to evolve as the result of changes in the international environment. Accordingly, governments and organizations around the world are moving towards more robust access control solutions in an effort to mitigate ever increasing threats. This security guide complements, and should be read in conjunction with, other lead agency documents such as RCMP Guide G1-024 - Control of Access and the GSP standards, notably the Operational Security Standard on Physical Security. In accordance with Sections 10.1, 10.8 and 10.11 of the GSP, and the Operational Security Standard – Readiness Levels for Federal Government Facilities, this physical security guide provides information and advice to meet the baseline physical security requirements with respect to identification cards and access badges.
While baseline requirements are designed for common types of scenarios, some departments/organizations may face different threats because of the nature of their operations, their location and/or the attractiveness of their assets. Examples include police or military establishments, health services, laboratories, sensitive research facilities, museums, service counters, offices in high-crime areas and overseas facilities. Such entities may require more stringent security measures based on the results of a Threat and Risk Assessment (TRA).
All government employees must be issued an identification card which, as a minimum, includes the name of the department/organization, the bearer's name and photo, a unique card number and an expiry date. In addition, access badges indicate authorization status for employees, visitors, contractors, service personnel, etc. who have a demonstrated need or “affiliation” with the department/organization and clearly identifies them as an employee or a non-employee. This guide provides direction on how to meet these minimum requirements and is supplemented by relevant technical criteria, suggestions, examples, best practices and other measures.
This guide outlines the primary requirements for both identification card and access badge systems (manual and machine-aided or automated). It also identifies security concerns that must be addressed in the development, selection, implementation and administration of any identification card or access badge system. Further, this document provides minimum1 card and badge system guidelines for departments/organizations that have determined a requirement for an access control system.
This document also provides information to assist departments/organizations in the application of Treasury Board Secretariat’s Operational Security Standard - Readiness Levels for Federal Government Facilities when related to the requirements of control of access procedures and identification cards.
Access badge (Insigne d’accès) - a document issued by a department/organization to show the zone or facility/complex to which the bearer has authorized access2. It should not be confused with an identification card as it serves different purposes and may have a different appearance.
Affiliation (Membre affilié) - departments/organizations may issue ID cards or access badges in order to define the affiliation of other categories of individuals to the organization. For example, students, volunteers or Ministerial staff.
Employee (Employé) - an individual employed by the government department/organization in question on an indeterminate, term, secondment or casual basis.
Identification card (Carte d’identité) - a document issued by the department/organization to identify the bearer. It should not be confused with an access badge as it serves different purposes and may have a different appearance.
Individual under contract (Travailleur contractuel) - an outside worker (i.e. not an employee) including contractors, tradespersons, consultants and agency employees who may or may not be screened, depending on the extent of work and access required.
Visitor (Visiteur) - an individual who does not work for the government department/organization occupying the host facility/complex, but has some legitimate reason for being on the premises and a need to be processed by the control of access system in place.
The effectiveness of control of access is enhanced when employees can be readily distinguished from other persons who might be on the premises. To accomplish this, a procedure must be in place to permit quick and effective verification that affiliates, employees, individuals under contract and visitors have been processed through the control of access. This is normally accomplished by one of the following methods:
While the method of controlling access based on personal recognition is an accepted strategy under certain circumstances, caution should be used when relying on it as the sole method. Also, this method of controlling access does not remove the requirement of the department/organization from issuing identification cards to employees. For further information on access control please refer to the RCMP’s Physical Security Guide G1-024 “Control of Access”.
This document examines the following card types:
The commonly accepted method of identifying personnel as employees or representatives of a department/organization is by the use of identification cards. Employees should carry them at all times. Identification cards must only be issued to individuals who have met the screening requirements of the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Government Security Policy (GSP). This procedure must be completed prior to individuals starting their work-related duties. Only one employee identification card must be issued at any one time unless a TRA recommends otherwise.
Departments/Organizations needing to issue identification cards to persons not fitting the traditional definition of an employee (i.e. a student, volunteer or contract worker) may optionally use an “affiliation” field. This field would identify the classification of the employee and ensure its verifiability during a visual examination. A solid or patterned line border may be used with the photo to further identify affiliation. The border must not obscure the photo.
As a minimum, an identification card must contain the individual's name, colour photograph or digitized image, the name of the issuing department/organization, date of expiry (maximum five years from date of issue) and a number unique to the card. A department/organization considering additional information fields must ensure each item is justifiable under existing Human Rights and Privacy Act legislation, i.e., there must be a justified need for the inclusion of details such as employee height, weight, hair colour and date of birth. It is not permissible for an identification card to contain the individual's social insurance number.
The photograph of the bearer should provide a 3/4 frontal view of the head and upper shoulders (refer to Appendix A - Best Practices). The bearer must be re-photographed at least every five years. The card's photograph and/or information fields should be updated immediately or at the discretion of the departmental/organizational authority whenever major identification features have changed, e.g. beard, moustache, hair colour or weight gain/loss.
All information on the inserts/cards must be machine-written without erasures or alterations. Refer to Appendix B - Card Requirements Table for a summary of card requirements.
Access badges must be worn at all times while in the facility/complex. It may be necessary to quickly and effectively determine whether affiliates, employees, individuals under contract or visitors have authorized access to a facility/complex or zone. This is usually accomplished through the use of an access badge. An access badge also indicates that affiliates, employees, individuals under contract or visitors have been properly processed through the control of access procedures.
An employee’s access badge should provide a photo of the bearer. Access badges indicate authorization only. Additional steps intended to verify identity, such as showing an identification card or other positive identifying documentation, should be taken where warranted (refer to Appendix C - Recommended Verification Procedures).
Control staff may be used at an entry point to verify that persons entering the restricted-access areas are wearing appropriate badges. Alternatively, the card may be combined with an electronic access control system to permit access. Refer to the RCMP’s Physical Security Guide G1-024 “Control of Access” for further information.
In the case of electronic access badges, the access control system takes on some or all of the responsibility of determining access rights.
Access badges should be at least industry standard size, allowing for an appreciably larger photograph or digitized image of the bearer than identification cards. A large and clear photograph or digitized image combined with coding is essential for the control staff to quickly establish the access status of the bearer. Access badge sizes should be greater if it is necessary to be able to visually check the badge from a distance. Electronic access badges are available in industry standard size, and this should be taken into account when designing the layout of the information fields. Non-mechanical access badges do not contain any of the technology found in electronic access control cards and may be oversized to facilitate visibility from a distance.
Access badges should visibly identify the issuing department/organization by the use of items such as crests, emblems and acronyms. When the TRA identifies exploitable vulnerabilities, indirect codes, e.g. letters and designs easily recognized by authorized personnel, should be used to distinguish badges from those of other departments/organizations, and data on the access badge should not identify it with a particular facility/complex.
Visible features can indicate the zones to which employees, tradespersons and visitors have authorized access. These features can be colours, badge shape, codes (e.g. numbers, letters and bars) or any combination thereof which readily establish to authorized personnel that the bearer has been properly processed through the access control system for the facility/complex or zone. Caution should be exercised when applying this option as visible identification of the special access authorization could pose an increased threat to the information and assets within that zone. For further information on zones please refer to the RCMP’s Physical Security Guide G1-026 “Application of Physical Security Zones”.
Any information on the badge/inserts must be machine-written without erasures or alterations.
The primary purpose of this badge is to visibly establish the bearer as an employee with authorized access to the facility/complex or zone by providing a 3/4 frontal photograph or digitized image of head and upper shoulders which should cover at least 50% of the badge face.
The employee access badge should bear the employee's name and an expiry date, and indicate that authority has been granted to enter a facility/complex or zone. Through the use of features such as colour combinations, the employee access badge may also indicate authorization for temporary employees or contract personnel. A combination of any of the features identified in the section above can be used to further confirm authorization and recognition of the bearer. Employee access badges must contain numbers that are unique to the badge and should be renewed at least every five years. Only one access badge at any one time must be issued to any person. If a new access badge needs to be issued, procedures should be in place to determine the steps to be followed, including the issuance of a new unique number.
Employee access badges for Operations Zones can be removed from the zone or facility/complex for which they have been issued if an operational reason exists. Exceptions to this policy are required if a TRA indicates that the threat posed by a person who has possession of a lost or stolen badge will compromise existing security safeguards. When employees are allowed to remove these badges from the facility/complex or zone they should be notified of their responsibility and be provided with recommended safekeeping procedures, i.e. out of sight or secured in a container at their residence.
These access badges generally contain no photograph or name but clearly indicate the bearer as being an authorized individual. This is usually indicated through the use of such features as colour, letters and numbers. Where the individual has passed a security screening procedure but is not directly under the control of the department/organization, a photo access badge with appropriate background colours and bar codes may be issued. Each individual access badge should contain a number unique to the badge.
Access authorization is indicated by use of the methods identified in Appendix B - Recommended Verification Procedures. Departmental/organizational policy should stipulate whether tradespersons require escorts and under what conditions access will be permitted.
Individual under contract access badges must not leave the facility/complex for which they were issued and must be returned to the issuing office at the end of each visit. A record of issue should be established to identify the cardholder, the company represented and the purpose of the visit.
Visitor access badges usually contain no photograph or name but clearly establish the bearer as an authorized visitor to the department/organization. Badges may also be issued to visitors indicating that the person has been granted a temporary authorization to access a specific area. This is usually indicated through the use of such features as colour, letters and numbers on the inserts/badge.
Visitor access badges should contain a number unique to the badge to help facilitate tracking and inventory verification. When the TRA identifies exploitable vulnerabilities, visitors should be escorted to and within a facility's/complex’s restricted areas (Operations, Security and High Security Zones).
Visitor/daily access badges must not leave the facility/complex for which they were issued and must be returned to the issuing office at the end of each visit. A record of issue should be established to identify the cardholder, the organization represented, the purpose of the visit and the person being visited.
Some departments/organizations may wish to incorporate the identification card/access badge requirements on one credential. The combination of these requirements is possible when supported by the departmental/organizational TRA and operational requirements, e.g., if the TRA indicates the threat posed by a person having possession of a lost or stolen access badge and identification card is manageable. When used, the combined card/badge should:
Refer to Appendix B - Card Requirements Table for a summary of card requirements.
The earlier sections of this security guide establish minimum guidelines to be used for identification card and access badge systems. However, a TRA may indicate that additional security features are required, such as:
The security features incorporated shall not:
Each department/organization must establish procedures for the proper handling of identification cards and access badges. These procedures should:
Canada Post’s current policy does not provide for delivery of departmental/organizational ID cards deposited in mailboxes, even if an address is included on the card. Departments/Organizations may, however, enter into some form of MOU with Canada Post to ensure the return of their ID cards.
The department/organization should have a security awareness program which ensures that all employees are aware of the facility/complex identification card and/or access badge system and their responsibilities in the successful operation of such a system. This program should include administration of the system, familiarization with each type of card and badge (i.e. affiliation, individual under contract, employee, visitor) access afforded by each type of badge, proper use of the card/badge, responsibilities of the card/badge bearer, display requirements and procedures to follow when a violation, loss or theft occurs.
The program should also remind employees that they are a part of the security program as well as the steps they should take when they become aware of persons without access badges in restricted-access areas.
All personnel must visibly display their badges at all times while in a restricted-access area.
Access badges should be worn at chest height, allowing the bearer’s photograph and face to be readily compared. Access badges that are worn upside down or on the hip make it difficult to quickly and effectively determine if the photo on the card matches the person wearing the badge.
Employees may be reluctant to challenge individuals if they appear to be wearing access cards even though the card may not be readily visible. A policy that requires the badges to be worn around the neck will encourage employees to participate in the control of access procedures. If health and safety concerns are associated with wearing badges around the neck (i.e. working around heavy equipment) alternative measures will be required.
Lanyards, retractable badge reels, snap hooks, clips, etc. used to hold badges should not include pre-printed identifiable departmental/organizational markings.
Employee access badges for Security or High Security Zones should not be removed from the facility/complex for which they have been issued and could even be restricted to the zone for which they are issued, if warranted by the TRA.
The photograph appearing on the badge should be as large as possible to help facilitate quick visual checks. The photograph of the individual should be full colour showing the full face, head and upper shoulders, and should be sized to occupy as much of the frame as possible. On an industry standard size insert/card, the photograph commonly covers 40% of the badge and the information 60%. However, photographs of this size are not large enough to give personnel time to compare the photograph with the bearer prior to passing or contacting the individual. Therefore, consideration should be given to increasing the size of the photograph.
Photographs should be re-taken every five (5) years for ID cards, access badges and combination cards. Minimum print resolution is 300 dpi (dots per inch), although higher resolutions are recommended.
Head coverings that conceal any visible portion of the head (i.e., ball caps, bandanas or headscarves) should not be worn, unless they constitute a religious obligation.
Eyewear, if such is normally worn, are to be maintained for the photograph, but not sunglasses, unless the individual has a certifiable requirement to wear them.
Background colours should be neutral in nature and provide for contrast from the individual’s complexion to ensure high visibility.
Persons requiring access to the facility/complex should have their identity verified by security staff before being issued access badges. Staff members should be required to sign in visitors and individuals under contract, and be responsible for the access badge.
Unlike an access badge with a photo, visitor and individual under contract access badges can be used by a number of individuals. In order to ensure that the cards represent a properly cleared person, effective control over the number and whereabouts of access badges must be maintained.
Departments/Organizations may choose to punch an opening in the card body to enable the card to be worn on a lanyard. Departments/Organizations should ensure such alterations are closely coordinated with the card vendor and/or manufacturer to ensure that card material integrity is not adversely impacted.
It is recommended departments/organizations ensure such alterations do not:
|Information fields||Employee ID card||Employee access badge
(non-mechanical or electronic)
|Combo Card 1
(ID & non-mechanical access badge)
Combo Card 2
(ID and electronic access badge)
Individual under contract card/badge
|Affiliation card / badge|
|Colour photograph/ Digitized image||Must||Should||Must||Can4||Must|
|Name of issuing department/ organization||Must||Should||Must||Must||Must|
|Location privilege - colours, badge shape, codes||Never||Can5||Can5||Can5||Can5|
|Date of expiry||Must2||Should2||Must2||Must2||Must2|
|Unique card number||Must||Must||Must||Must||Must2|
|Date of birth||Can3||Can (month & year only)3||Can3||Never||Never|
|Lost/ Stolen ID cards/ badges||Refer to Section 7|
NOTE: All information must be machine-written without erasures or alterations.
1 Although recommended, some departments/organizations may choose not to put a signature on an ID, combination or affiliation card / badge (if deemed operationally necessary)
The need for ID cards and access badges can be found in TBS’s Operational Security Standard – Readiness Levels for Federal Government Facilities. In the standard, Readiness Level One requires “the mandatory control of all access points within all federal facilities, including visitor control”. ID cards and access badges have a significant impact on the implementation of the readiness standard; therefore, the full version of the standard should be reviewed through the Departmental Security Officer.
An example of how the use of ID cards and badges can support the standard is provided below:
A person (typically security personnel, as used hereafter) shall perform visual identity verification of the cardholder and determine whether the identified individual should be allowed through the control point. The series of steps that shall be applied in the visual authentication process are as follows:
Identification cards should be at least credit card size 2.125 in. x 3.375 in. (54 mm x 86 mm) with a protective, sturdy, transparent, tamper-resistant, thermally-laminated cover (usually plastic) designed to make unauthorized alterations to the insert difficult. The cards are usually white, No. 4 bond, 90 g/m2 as specified in CGSB Standard 9-GP-1M, with scattered coloured planchettes.
Access badges should consist of a protective, sturdy, transparent, tamper-resistant, thermally-laminated cover (usually plastic) designed to make unauthorized alterations to the insert (usually photographic paper) difficult.
Laminate materials can be obtained in various qualities. However, as a minimum, the polyester should be .007 in. (.178 mm) and the resin .003 in. (.076 mm) for a combined thickness of .02 in. (.51 mm) plus the insert. Materials which merely enclose and protect the insert should not be used for identification cards and access badges. Laminate materials to be used should deface the front and back of the insert if removal or alteration is attempted.NOTE: The use of laminating technology for identification cards or access badges carries certain inherent risks and vulnerabilities. If you are using or planning to use laminating technology, the completion of a TRA is highly recommended.