This European country is testing the world’s first digital passports

Apparently, the ‘digital travel credentials’ are just as reliable as the classic paper version

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
Electronic boarding pass and passport control in the airport
Photograph: Shutterstock

We’re always looking for ways to make international travel more convenient, to avoid the dreaded long queues and (metaphorically) fly through all the various checks as seamlessly as possible. So here’s something cool: Finland has launched its first trial of ‘digital travel credentials’ or DTCs – essentially a passport on your phone.

The pilot scheme is running in Helsinki as a partnership between Finnair, airport operator Finavia and the Finnish police. It’s only available to Finnish people, and flights to London, Edinburgh and Manchester at the end of August mark the start of the pilot. 

While these trials are the first time digital passports will be accepted in a real border control environment, it’s not just Finland who are testing the method. The European Commission reached out to various countries last year, and after Croatia volunteered, a similar pilot will take place in Zagreb later in 2023.

So, how do they actually work? Well, Finns who want to volunteer have to register with the Finnish police. They need to download an app to their smartphone and book an appointment at the police station in Vantaa, near Helsinki Airport.

Volunteers will need to take a physical copy of their passport, sign a consent form, and have another photo of themselves taken. Once all that’s done, the DTCs can be used either on flights from Helsinki Airport to the UK, or on direct Finnair flights to Helsinki Airport. Oh, and those participating are required to send their data to the Finnish Border Guard between 36 and four hours before they fly, via the app. 

There are separate lines set up for volunteers at passport control in Helsinki, and their photo will be compared to the DTC photo taken during registration. Volunteers will then need to place their passport on a separate reader, look into the camera, and be cleared. After all that, you’re through. 

The Finnish Border Guard claims that these digital passports allow ‘smooth and fast border crossings without compromising security,’ and are just as reliable as physical passports. 

Once we know more about how these trials have fared, it’s up to the European Commission to propose an EU-wide rollout of digital passports. So it’s early days – but this sounds a lot like the future of travel.

Did you see that passports may one day be replaced by human heartbeats?

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