As Global Travel Resumes, e-Passports Will Bring Simplicity

A few months ago, getting into an airplane and traveling around the globe was so common and natural that we did not give it a second thought. That has changed during the last few months — most dramatically for those who got stuck somewhere on their way and for those who still cannot visit their loved ones on the other side of the world.

passport and boarding pass documents

Picking Up Where We Left Off?

Traveling again is certainly high on my personal wish list, and luckily that wish could soon come true. Many countries are planning to reopen their borders. Some governments are pursuing bilateral travel agreements to maneuver around quarantine rules, which they call travel bubbles or air bridges1. Airlines are picking up flight routes again. Travel is important, as many jobs are within the travel industry, and despite all the technology available to us today, a lot of commerce still thrives through in-person interactions. The question is, can we as identity providers support the return to regular travel? And if the answer is yes, then how? Let’s answer that question by explaining why the electronic Passport (e-Passport) is more important than ever for governments and citizens.

Increased Security

Today, one third of all countries in the world still issue machine readable travel document (MRTD/MRP) Passports, while two-thirds have moved to e-Passport. One reason is that the e-Passport is the most secure and accurate identification document for a traveler. Of course, that has always been the main purpose of an identity document. Today, where health-related travel restrictions might occur, making sure the right person is traveling is a serious global security issue which can affect millions of people. Since e-Passports store biometric data on the document’s chip, fraudsters would need to alter the document physically and electronically. This not only prevents the document from being altered, but also prevents the takeover of one’s identity.

Faster Processing

The e-Passport enables adults to use e-Gates for border control instead of waiting for hours in a long line. No one wants to wait in crowded entry halls at airports. In fact, no one wants to be in a crowded space at all — certainly not after our recent experience. Even beyond the current health crisis, waiting for hours after a long-haul flight is never the greatest first impression of a travel destination.

Ready for Future Health-Related Traveler Programs

A safe prediction is that travel is going to get more complex and more expensive as airlines increase health precautions. The question remains whether the e-Passport can play a role in easing the restrictions imposed by any new measures. Maybe in the future we will also look at more traveler programs that include pre-travel health-checks. In order to participate in those, an e-Passport is likely to be mandatory as a secure form of identification that binds the traveler to their health record.

Interested in learning more? Check out our latest white paper that explores more benefits of migrating from MRTD to e-Passport.

1South China Morning Post, 8.6.2020

Natascha Trivisas is Product Marketing Manager at HID’s Citizen Identity Business Area in Hong Kong. She works closely with product managers across the globe. Together, they define the most important part of a product or solution from a customer’s perspective and determine how to communicate it in an understandable way.