Finland has become the world's first country to introduce digital passports - meaning that people flying from Helsinki to the United Kingdom can now simply show a digital ID on their phone. Passengers can also pass through border control through Digital Travel Credentials (DTC) rather than wait in line, Euronews reported.
According to the Finnish Border Control, this will be the first time a digital passport will be accepted in a "real border control environment". This unprecedented move promises to make the travel experience for passengers faster and easier.
The initiative was launched on August 28 in partnership with Finnish carrier Finnair, the police and airport operator Finavia and there are strong signs of similar actions emerging in the European Union (EU).
What is a digital passport?
According to the Finnish Border Guard, the DTC refers to a "digital version of a physical passport" that is equally reliable and allows faster and seamless experience of crossing borders without "compromising security" or waiting in long lines.
The Helsinki Airport had constituted special lines for those who are volunteering for a trial of the digital service. The photo of a passenger will be compared with their DTC photo registered with the police. The passenger is also required to place their passport on a separate reader.
Once cleared, the person will be allowed through border control. This scheme is only available for those Finnish citizens who are planning to travel from Finland to London, Edinburgh and Manchester using the Finnair flights.
How do you use these digital credentials?
Finnish citizens travelling to the UK need to download the FIN DTC Pilot digital travel document application on their smartphones. A phone screen locking method like a PIN Number, fingerprint or face ID is required for the application.
The passengers also need to register with the police at Vantaa Main Police Station's license services. Citizens need to book an appointment and bring their physical passport in order to create a digital version. A consent form will need to be signed and a picture will be taken for the purposes of facial recognition.
However, since the digital passport initiative is currently under trial, Finnish citizens are still required to carry their physical passports with them and have it scanned at border controls. Moreover, this initiative is exclusively available in Finland, meaning that passengers will need to follow the regular rules in UK airports.
Will this initiative extend to the EU?
The Finnish initiative is part of a broader push by the EU to improve travel technology. The EU has planned a new automated Entry/Exit System (EES) which is set to launch in November 2023 that will register non-EU passengers digitally and remove the need for physical passports.
Under this system, every time anyone crosses an EU external border, the system will register their name, type of travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images), and the date and place of entry and exit. This is aimed at improving security and boosting travel speed.
Moreover, Croatia is also looking to run its own pilot project at Zagreb Airport later this year. The information will be used by the European Commission to roll out digital passports for member-states at some time in the future.
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