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Travel
How Does a Digital Passport Work?

GET READY FOR A PASSPORT APP, DIGITAL ID, AND MORE

Ordering dinner, catching a ride, booking a flight—there’s an app for that. How to streamline re-entering the country after an international trip? There may just be an app for that as well in the very near future.

Person standing at airport kiosk

WHAT IS A DIGITAL PASSPORT?
The country of Finland is currently testing the world’s first digital passport. Instead of heading into customs and border control using a physical booklet, the digital passport involves—you guessed it—a passport app. This pilot program allows passengers on certain flights to pass through border control via an app on their smart device.

While many countries are beginning to incorporate the use of an e-passport (a traditional paper passport booklet with a microchip embedded into it), this program moves the entire passport into digital format and allows it to live in the app.

HOW DOES A DIGITAL PASSPORT WORK?
This newly-tested program has the potential to eliminate the need for a physical passport booklet and allow travelers to pass through border control quickly and efficiently, much like you use other convenient apps and programs on your device. One simply scans the app on their smart device at designated checkpoints. A border agent can then simply compare photos of the traveler taken at the airport and when they registered via the app.

Travelers on their way home after an international trip may be able to enjoy faster processing times and more efficient passage through customs and border control—benefits any traveler would appreciate.

Man sitting in airport on phone

WHY USE AN APP FOR PASSPORT CREDENTIALS?
An app allows users to prep their documents ahead of time and arrange them in one place, ready for their reentry into the country. This app contains their digital travel credentials—everything you’d normally present to a border agent after deplaning. The benefits: easy access to your digital identity, less likely to forget when packing, only you have access (harder to steal), and less fumbling through a jam-packed carry-on.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONCERNS WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY?
Folks concerned about privacy or technical difficulties at some point during reentry may be nervous about using a digital ID. As for privacy, government agencies have access to the same information, whether you enter the country via an app or with paper documents. Any glitches with technology would require a traveler to find a border control agent who would manually check their credentials, as is done now.

WHERE DOES THE PROGRAM CURRENTLY STAND?
The trial running in Finland is slated to continue through February 2024, and may expand to other routes and airports. All Finnish citizens are able to enroll in the pilot program. The information contained in the passport app is touted by the Finnish Border Control to be on par with and as reliable as a physical passport. The digitization of travel documents may make things like those pretty travel stamps, passport covers, and ugly passport photos a thing of the past (OK, perhaps not the photos).

Stepping up after Finland, Croatia and The Netherlands are planning similar pilot programs, which are co-funded by the European Union (EU). By 2030, the EU hopes to enroll at least 80% of EU citizens in a larger digital identity program they can use to access all kinds of services.Z Might this be the future of air travel and passport control? It does make time at border control more efficient and makes identity theft less likely, since all of your information is tied to facial recognition and contained in digital format. Like the digital boarding pass, security might just be all about your smart device moving forward!