Previously this registry referenced codes for Countries, Dependencies, Areas of Special Sovereignty, and Their Principal Administrative Divisions, as detailed in the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 10-4, used by the U.S. Government. The FIPS 10-4 standard was withdrawn as a Federal Information Processing Standard in 2008. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency continued to maintain FIPS 10-4 through 31 December 2014, at which point it was officially retired.
Standards under consideration for replacement of the retired FIPS 10-4 standard include:
- Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes (GENC) Standard. GENC specifies a profile of ISO 3166 Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions. Although ISO 3166 supports both two- and three-character codes, there are conflicts between the FIPS 10-4 two-character codes and the ISO 3166-1 two-character codes that prohibit an easy transition. For that reason, the U.S. Government is moving to three-character codes. Changing from two to three characters, especially in legacy systems, requires a significant transition period and not all historical data can be moved into a new paradigm.
The latest approved version of the GENC standard can be downloaded from the Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes page of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence website.
- ISO 3166 Country Codes. ISO 3166 is the International Standard for country codes and codes for their subdivisions. The purpose of ISO 3166 is to define internationally recognized codes of letters and/or numbers that can be used to refer to countries and subdivisions. However, it does not define the names of countries – this information comes from United Nations sources (Terminology Bulletin Country Names and the Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use maintained by the United Nations Statistics Divisions).
The full list of ISO 3166-1 Country codes can be viewed on the ISO Online Browsing Platform (OBP).
The full list of ISO 3166-2 Subdivision codes is available for purchase from the ANSI Webstore.
For a comparison table between GEC (formerly FIPS 10-4), ISO codes, and two other country coding systems see CountryCodeCrossReference2020-02-11.xls and column definitions in CountryCodeCrossReference.pdf.