The Dawn of Digital Passports Is Officially Upon Us

Finland is now piloting a program that would effectively replace physical passports

Finland has just become the first to introduce digital passports
Finland has just become the first to introduce digital passports.

Let me be the first to say: I love a passport. Albeit a bit antiquated, there’s something really nostalgic about carrying a physical document and getting it stamped in a new-to-you country. The “passport stamp collector” moniker carries corny undertones, but there is something satisfying being able to hold an archive of every place you’ve visited over the span of a decade in the palm of your hand.

That said, they may soon be relegated to the past in favor of an electronic alternative. Per a new report from Afar, Finland has just become the first country to introduce digital passports. Now, thanks to a pilot program, passengers on select flights can pass through border control using “Digital Travel Credentials (DTC),” which allows them to scan an app on their phone at designated checkpoints in lieu of having their passports checked by the Border Guard.

Any Finnish citizen can enroll via the FIN DTC app, though they then must visit a police service point — to sign a consent form and have a photo taken for facial recognition purposes — in order to complete the registration. Once registered, and any time within 36 to 40 hours ahead of their flight, travelers must upload their travel details to the app. And that might sound like a lot of work upfront, but come time to pass through border control, all they need to do is scan a code on that same app.

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“The DTC is a digital version of the physical passport and is equally reliable. It allows smooth and fast border crossings without compromising security,” the Finnish Border Guard said in a statement. “The European Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, is developing the DTC as part of a broad digital identity policy package that includes a number of digital services.”

As Afar notes, during the trial period, the digital passport will work exclusively on Finnair flights between Finland’s Helsinki Airport and three U.K. airports — Edinburgh, London and Manchester. It’s scheduled to run until February 2024.

Of course, the advantages here are numerous, the most obvious being that you never have to worry about forgetting your passport at home. It also, assuming all systems are go, saves an incredible amount of time. Further, it will make it harder for passports to be falsified and/or tampered with, thus reducing the risk of both identity fraud and unauthorized access.  It stands to reason that other countries will follow suit in the very near future.

And most travelers will surely be glad to ditch their paper passport for a faster, digital version. In response to the news, one of my coworkers posited, “[Physical passports are] impossible to renew, and if they were digital maybe it’d be easier,” adding, “I hate that they’re like ‘Oh, just send us your birth certificate and all your most sensitive documents in the mail and we’ll send them back whenever.’” (To which another correctly quipped, “[B]ut also then there’s a sense of accomplishment — like when you get it finally, it’s more precious.”)

For my part, however, I’m happy to continue using my physical passport — so long as Global Entry is always available to me, that is.


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