EMV® Level 1 and Level 2 testing assesses if payment cards, devices and acceptance terminals comply with the EMV Chip Specifications. EMVCo Director of Technology, Bastien Latge, covers the basics of EMV Level 1 and Level 2 and how they support the delivery of seamless and secure chip card payments around the world.

EMV Chip Specifications and the Role of Testing

EMVCo creates, evolves and promotes technical specifications for card-based payment products to work seamlessly and securely around the world. EMV Specifications support technologies including EMV Chip Contact, EMV Chip Contactless, Mobile, QR Code, Secure Remote Commerce (SRC), 3-D Secure (3DS) and Payment Tokenisation and are widely used by the payments industry to develop products and services that deliver trusted and convenient in-store, online and remote card-based payments.

Merchants and consumers around the world use chip technology for more secure in-person payments – whether paying with chip credit or debit card or tapping a mobile phone. The EMV Chip Specifications make this possible by providing a blueprint for chips and the machines that accept chip-based payments to work in the same way, no matter where they are used.

Specifically, the EMV Chip Specifications outline the ‘protocol’ or necessary elements for the chip to communicate with a chip reader in an acceptance terminal and exchange information to execute a payment.  For contact payments, the chip must come into physical contact with the chip reader for the payment transaction to occur. With contactless, the chip must come within sufficient proximity of the reader, (a maximum of 4cm), for information to flow between the chip and the acceptance terminal. Acceptance terminals include both attended and unattended chip contact and contactless terminals, such as POS (point-of-sale), ATM (automatic teller machine), transit and tap-to-mobile devices.

To support the use of EMV Chip Specifications, EMVCo facilitates testing and certification of vendor products to validate that a product is EMV-compliant and will perform in accordance with the EMV Chip Specifications when brought to market.

EMV Level (L1) and EMV Level 2 (L2) refer respectively to the communication protocol (mechanical, electrical and transport level interfaces) and to the EMV payment “kernel” (set of functions that provides the processing logic and data that is required to perform an EMV contact or contactless transaction). Each level has its dedicated testing and approval processes for assessing the compliance of payment acceptance terminals with the EMV Chip Specifications. Collectively called ‘Terminal Type Approval’, L1 and L2 work together to address different functional aspects necessary for terminals to support EMV chip transactions.

Within EMVCo, expertise-driven technical working groups are dedicated to delivering and maintaining the EMV Chip Specifications and EMV L1 and L2 testing and certification infrastructure.

What is EMV Level 1 testing?

EMV Level 1 testing evaluates the terminal chip reader for compliance with the mechanical and electrical protocols in the EMV Chip Specifications, which covers the transfer of data between the terminal and the card, smartphone, watch, or other device for making card-based payments. This includes tests to confirm how close the card/device and the reader need to be for information to flow.

What is EMV Level 2 testing?

EMV L2 testing evaluates the ‘EMV Level 2 kernel’, which is the software inside the terminal (known as firmware) that performs EMV processing, for compliance with the EMV Chip Specifications. This includes tests to confirm that the software supports the EMV payment application functions.

Which parties do EMV Level 1 and Level 2 apply to?

Terminal manufacturers seek L1 and L2 testing and approval in order to demonstrate to solution providers, partners and customers that their products are EMV-compliant.

How does the EMV Level 1 and Level 2 testing and approvals process work?

The actual testing is performed by EMVCo accredited external test laboratories located in numerous locations around the world. This is facilitated through an EMVCo managed laboratory accreditation programme with an associated ongoing monitoring process.

In brief, the process for product providers includes these steps:

  • Registration – The product vendor registers with EMVCo.
  • Laboratory Selection – the product vendor selects a laboratory to compete the evaluation.
  • Testing – the laboratory tests the product and submits a test report to the provider.
  • Approval – EMVCo evaluates the test report and issues a Letter of Approval (LOA). Approved products are listed on the EMVCo website.

What benefit does EMV Level 1 and Level 2 testing and approval offer to the payments industry?

L1 and L2 testing and approval provides a way for card, device and terminal manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are certified as meeting EMV Specifications for performance and compatibility prior to their deployment. Solution developers benefit from using L1 and L2 certified products to offer solutions to merchants that meet EMV Chip Specifications. Merchants and consumers benefit from payment technology that enables familiar, convenient, and reliable chip card-based payments anywhere in the world.

Learn more about the EMVCo product approval processes

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