Digital passports: Finland to test mobile app that will allow passengers to travel paperless
Finland could become the first EU country to test a mobile app with digital copies of travel documents.
The country has expressed a willingness to test a phone app that would contain digital copies of travel documents instead of traditional paper passports. Thanks to this new technology, passengers could send information to border authorities before traveling abroad.
According to a report by Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, the European Commission reached out late last year to ask if the country would be willing to participate in the pilot project.
“We are currently preparing a funding request for the Commission. The application must be submitted before the end of August. After that, it will be decided whether the project will be carried out or not,” Mikko Väisänen, a Finnish border guard inspector, told the newspaper.
How will the digital passport trial in Finland work?
The Commission is encouraging some Member States to experiment with digital travel documents. With the information gathered from these tests, this could introduce the possibility of crossing borders with nothing but a mobile phone application throughout the EU.
Although it is still uncertain if Finland trial will continue, the digital documentation could first be tested on air crossings to Croatia.
Some passengers will be asked to volunteer to download the app to their phone. They can then send their documents to the border authorities before travelling.
“The information is checked in advance and deleted after the trip,” Väisänen said.
The first volunteers will probably be passengers traveling between Finland and Croatia in the spring of 2023 at the earliest.
Could digital passports be the answer to airport delays?
For now, passengers involved in the lawsuit will still need to carry their physical paper passports and undergo checks by border agents.
But in the long term, the goal is that people don’t have to carry around anything other than their phone. Travelers could simply be identified using a photo of their face when they board a plane or go through security.
It is hoped that these digital travel documents will facilitate passage through a border much smoother and faster. Reducing the time of each individual check by even a small amount could reduce waiting times for passengers.
Does anywhere in the world already use digital passports?
In 2021, Ukraine became the first country in the world to grant the same legal status to digital passports as to physical passports.
Using a phone app called Dila, released by Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, users can view electronic versions of their documents. They can also generate QR codes which have essentially the same power as a passport.
Ukrainians have been able to use their digital passport in various situations such as confirming their identity at the post office, confirming their age or opening a bank account for a few years. But last year they were also recognized when traveling around the country by plane or train.
Poland and South Korea are also using digital documentation on smartphones in a similar way and more pilots may soon be underway in the UK and US.