This European Country Broke A World First Passport Record That Will Speed Up Travel Times

If you travel often, you might be used to downloading your flight boarding ticket onto your device, eliminating those pesky, easy-to-lose paper tickets. For some lucky flyers departing from Finland, the same concept now applies to their passports. According to the Finnish Border Guard, the Northern European nation launched a new digital passport program allowing globe-trotters to board flights without a traditional passport book in hand. The agency reported that Finland is the first country in the world to approve this kind of scheme — though, given the potential benefits, others are likely to follow suit.

The program is expected to speed up airport immigration processes and allow travelers to cross borders without the hassle associated with physical passports (anything that helps our jet-lagged selves get to our destination quicker is a win). And while digital documents might sound risky, the Finnish Border Guard insists the method is safe and reliable. It's important to note, however, that while digital passports are already available to Finnish citizens, they are still being approved only as part of a pilot program. Moreover, only some trips qualify for the paperless option.

How travelers can sign up

If you have a Finnish passport and are set to take a Finnair flight from Helsinki to either London, Edinburgh, or Manchester, you could be one of the first in the world to travel with a digital passport. To take part, you must first register for the Digital Travel Credentials (DTC) program.

Start by downloading the FIN DTC Pilot app on the smartphone you plan to travel with. Then, schedule an appointment to register with the Finnish police. Make sure to bring your passport, and be prepared to take a new passport photo and sign a consent form during your appointment. Finally, send your personal data to the Finnish Border Guard four to 36 hours before your flight — a step you must take for every qualifying flight if you'd like to use your digital document.

At the airport, have your app ready when departing Helsinki and again upon arrival. Keep in mind that the technology isn't yet available in most other countries, so you'll still need your passport book to be admitted in British airports. Also, note that the digital option is only available to adults aged 18 and older, so if you have children in tow, you'll still need to have their passports out and ready at border control.

Are digital passports the way of the future?

Finland's world-first digital passports might only be limited to a few flight routes, but the Finnish Border Guard says that more international destinations are in the works and will be announced shortly. Similarly, Poslovni (article in Croatian) reported in October 2023 that Croatia would also be implementing a digital passport pilot program for flights to and from Zagreb's Franjo Tuđman Airport. The country's digital document app, similar to Finland's, was said to be available for all devices by the end of the year.

The measures are part of a push by the European Council to promote digital identity in place of conventional documentation. According to Erik Slottner, Swedish minister for public administration, "More and more people are using their identity and credentials in everyday contacts with public and private entities. A European digital identity wallet is therefore indispensable. This way, at least 80% of EU citizens should be able to use a digital ID solution to access key public services by 2030." In other words, expect other countries in the EU to adopt similar solutions soon.

In the meantime, those passing through Singapore's Changi Airport can also ditch the paper passport from 2024, per CNN. Fingers crossed that losing your passport will soon be a thing of the past.