Finland is changing the way it handles border security—specifically by doing away with physical passports.
The Finnish Border Guard announced on August 28 that it had rolled out a pilot program allowing passengers on select flights to go through border control using what’s called Digital Travel Credentials (DTC). Rather than queuing to have their passports manually checked by the Border Guard, participating Finnish travelers can scan an app on their phone at designated checkpoints.
“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 announcement from the Finnish Border Guard states. “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.”
During the trial period, which runs until February 2024, the digital passport will only work on Finnair flights between Finland’s Helsinki Airport and three U.K. airports: Edinburgh, London, and Manchester.
How the digital passports work
Any Finnish citizen can enroll in the trial program; however, some legwork is involved. To participate, Finnish citizens must first download the FIN DTC app, which the Finnish Border Guard developed, and then visit a police service point to complete the registration, which involves signing a consent form and having a photo taken to be used for facial recognition. The process only needs to be done one time, though.
Once registered, travelers will upload their travel information to the app between 36 and 4 hours before their flight, which will then be submitted to the Finnish Border Guard. Still, according to the Finnish Border Guard, it should help passengers get through security quicker, which is especially helpful at a time when travelers are going to Europe in record numbers. When travels physically go through border control, they just need to scan a code on app.
Other trial programs outside of Finland
Another DTC trial program is slated to start in Croatia’s Zagreb International Airport later this year, though no official dates have been announced. Both programs are being funded by the European Union Commission.
The trial programs are among the ways that border security in the European Union is working towards a more digital future. At some point in 2024, the EU anticipates launching a new entry requirement called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). It’s a travel authorization to enter 30 European countries (the 27 in the Schengen Area, plus Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania) that is good for three years or whenever your passport expires, whichever comes first. The launch of ETIAS will be facilitated in part by Europe’s forthcoming Entry/Exit System (EES), a tech-driven process that will keep track of visitors as they cross borders.