Detailed guide: The Document Checking Service pilot scheme

Government Digital Service

February 6
16:40 2020


The Document Checking Service (DCS) pilot is for non-public sector organisations that want to find out if British passports are valid.

You may need to do these checks as part of giving users access to an online service. The purpose of the checks must be to prevent crime.

You can no longer apply for the pilot because the expression of interest phase has closed.

Passport checks will be carried out through the DCS - a technical component run by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

The DCS will check passport details against the HM Passport Office (HMPO) database. It will send your organisation a yes or no response to say whether the passport is valid. No organisations will be given direct access to government-held data.

The pilot was announced in July 2019. Feedback from a stakeholder event in August 2019 has informed the design of the pilot.


The pilots objectives are to:

  • test the industry demand for checking information given by a user against government data sources
  • understand the different ways that organisations could use digital passport checks
  • test the technical design that would make these checks possible
  • capture consumer interest and experience of these checks, and perception of this use of passport data
  • understand if this is commercially viable, for the government and the organisations taking part

How the check works

To check if a passport is valid, your users will need to provide their:

  • passport number
  • forenames
  • surname
  • date of birth
  • passport expiry date

The DCS sends a request to HMPO. The DCS will then tell your organisation if the passport is valid by sending it a yes or no response.

A passport thats been cancelled or reported as lost or stolen will return a no response, but the check will not show what caused this response.

A yes response confirms the passport is valid at the point in time it is checked. A passport may later be cancelled, lost or stolen. If you check the same passport details again in the future, it will count as a new check for billing and volume reasons.

You can pass on the trust from the check to a third party. The purpose of the third partys check will also need to be to prevent crime. The check confirms passport validity at the point in time it is checked. Beyond this point there is a risk the check may no longer be valid because the status of the passport may have changed.

How much it costs

Youll need to pay a one-off connection fee for the pilot and 50p per check. The connection fee is tiered by the volume of checks you want to do. Youll pay:

  • 1,500 for 5,000 to 10,000 checks
  • 3,000 for 10,001 to 100,000 checks
  • 5,000 for 100,001 to 500,000 checks
  • 10,000 for 500,001 to 1 million checks
  • 15,000 for over 1 million checks

You must be able to make at least 5,000 checks to take part.

Amount of checks available

There are approximately 6 million checks available for use in the pilot. There is a restriction on the number of checks because HMPOs database has limited capacity.

If you take part, youll have an agreed total number of checks you can do over the duration of the pilot.

Youll also have a limit to the number of checks you can make over set periods of time within the pilot. This is called a throttle rate. GDS is considering the most appropriate means of throttling the volume of checks.

The passport validity checks happen in real time. However, GDS is considering alternatives, such as for checks to be processed as a batch instead. If this were to be introduced, it may need to be technically managed by pilot participants.

GDS will monitor throttle rates and the total number of checks to make sure they are in line with the target volumes. GDS will let you know if there is any change to the checks available.

How long the pilot will last

The pilot will run for approximately 1 year. Participants can start carrying out checks from around April 2020.

All participants will be able to access the pilot for the same amount of time. However, GDS and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are currently looking at whether organisations can take part for different amounts of time if they want to. This may mean some participants connect to the DCS at a later stage in the pilot.

How to connect to the DCS

GDS technical staff will help you connect to the DCS and will provide a test environment for you to test your readiness to connect.

GDS has produced initial technical documentation on connecting to the DCS.

The technical documentation will be kept updated.

Application process

1. Expression of interest

The expression of interest closed at 11:59pm on 20 October 2019.

All organisations that met the pilot requirements at this stage could progress to the full application.

You cannot take part in the pilot if you did not submit an expression of interest. However, having done so does not commit you to being involved.

2. Complete your application

If your expression of interest was accepted, you can now make a full application. Youll have been emailed the application materials.

A cross-government panel will score the applications. They will look for evidence that your organisation is ready and able to successfully take part in the pilot.

The panel will also consider the need to have a range of organisations, use cases and sectors represented.

3. Sign a contract with GDS

Youll need to sign a contract with GDS if youre selected to take part.

Read the pilot requirements to find out more about some of the rules youll have to follow.

4. Show that you meet the pilot requirements

GDS will need to carry out a review of your organisation to check that it meets the requirements. The review process has 3 stages.

At stage 1, youll:

  • give GDS a high-level description of how your organisation will use the DCS
  • complete a template provided by GDS to show how you meet the pilot requirements
  • submit evidence to show how you comply with the declaration you made at expression of interest stage

At stage 2, youll show GDS your working service and how it meets the pilot requirements. You may need to make changes and re-submit your service until you have shown that you comply with the rules. Youll not need to connect to the DCS at this stage.

At stage 3, you may need to host a site visit during which GDS can check how you comply with any requirements. This stage may be required at GDSs discretion.

5. Work with GDS to connect to the DCS

6. Start carrying out checks in around April 2020

After the pilot

GDS and DCMS recognise that organisations looking at taking part in the pilot will want to know what will happen at the end of it.

The pilot is an opportunity to test the industry demand for checking information given by a user against government data sources.

It may be a way of showing that there is a need for longer-term access to a passport validity check, which is in line with HMPOs ambition to work with stakeholders in the private sector to explore the best way to meet the demand for passport data. It may also help the government understand the potential value of safely checking other data sources.

GDS and DCMS will keep pilot participants updated on any relevant developments.

Contact information

Contact the GDS and DCMS team with any questions at

Published 1 October 2019
Last updated 6 February 2020 +show all updates
  1. The application stage is now open for organisations that had their expressions of interest accepted.

Related Articles


  1. We don't have any comments for this article yet. Why not join in and start a discussion.

Write a Comment

Your name:
Your email:

Post my comment

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Share This

Enjoyed this? Why not share it with others if you've found it useful by using one of the tools below: