Passport of the Future: What Is It Going to Look Like?

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What are passports of the future going to look like? Why should you invest in a foreign passport today? Below we discuss the modern trends, which will help entrepreneurs and investors to meet future challenges head-on.  “Be prepared”  is our favourite motto.

Electronic visa authorization systems, passports on cloud platforms, secure identification data storage in mobile phones, digital IDs, and biometrics are able to simplify cross-border travel. With these modern technologies, the traveler does not have to use paper documents (passports) or have visas stamped or stuck in their passports.  


Not only do these inventions simplify crossing borders – they also make customs control easier and the trip more pleasant. Generally, they are going to change the travel paradigm very soon. The transformation is already happening, greatly accelerated by the travel restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic! 

However, there are still some unsolved issues concerning data security, confidentiality, and global data management.

Below we discuss the newest achievements and the latest initiatives related to passport digitalization. We also speak about the reasons why you should apply for economic citizenship of a foreign country in the near future.

Australia is the pioneer in introducing electronic travel permits

Talking about the passport of the future, we certainly must start with Australia – the pioneer in travel document digitization. The Aussies were the first to introduce electronic border control methods.

The Australian authorities set an ambitious goal: they wanted to optimize border control but not at the expense of the security checks. Moreover, they sought to improve security measures while making crossing the Australian borders easier for travelers.

Thus, they came up with an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) concept that allows obtaining an entrance permit in advance. The system was put into operation just before the Olympic Games started in Sydney in 2000. The idea was quite simple: the prospective visitor to Australia was given the opportunity to apply for an entrance permit online without leaving the comfort of their home.

The system proved effective and the initiative served as a starting point for further development of digital visas. Besides, it laid the foundations for the digital passport of the future.

Americans and then Canadians followed suit and created analogous systems called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) and ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization), correspondingly. Then the European authorities launched the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) project that was aimed at servicing people arriving in Europe from other parts of the world.


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ETIAS is the new European travel reality that allows using passports of the future

The European Union has friendly relationships with a number of countries. Citizens of more than sixty countries outside the EU do not need visas to enter the territory of the Union. On the other hand, when foreigners can enter Europe without obtaining entrance permits first, potential threats to domestic security may arise.

Many years ago, Australians found a nice solution to the border control issue and they called it ETA. The system was rather inexpensive to implement and maintain and it served as an effective instrument of border control especially after the September 11 attack in the USA in 2001. The European ETIAS is the most advanced system at the present time. It is applicable to different means of transportation and not only to air travel (while airlines already use a large number of preventive measures based upon factors such as API, PNR, SIS, VIS, and so on). This is an ambitious project indeed and it has to be approved by all 27 member states of the European Union. Delayed by the pandemic from 2021, it is now expected that the system will be put into operation by the end of 2022.

How does the ETIAS function and how much will it cost to enter Europe? 

Well, soon you will be able to forget about all the visa formalities at the embassies and consulates. What you will have to do is to fill out a simple online form supplying your passport data and pay the application fee of a few euros. The applications will be processed automatically by use of national databases and then the EU databases. The machines will use “ big data” to assess the risks and determine if there are any grounds for rejecting the application.

  • If the automatic answer is positive, the application for the entrance permit is authorized online, instantly.
  • If the automatic answer is negative, trained security officers will check the application manually.

The ETIAS will let travelers enter Europe by…

  • …airplane;
  • …ship;
  • …train;
  • …personal car.

The advantages that the holder of the passport of the future will receive with the ETIAS are evident. The European states will be better protected from potential threats from outside the EU territory (beginning with illegal labor migration and ending with terrorist penetration). Long before the foreign national enters the Union, his or her personal data will be verified by electronic systems. It is much harder to forge electronic passports in comparison to paper passports.

Trustworthy travelers, in their turn, will be able to use faster and simpler modern border control procedures while enjoying the maximum level of comfort. It is expected that the number of rejected applications for entry will be reduced greatly when the electronic identification system becomes fully functional.

Traveling without passports in the future: total virtualization

The League of Nations introduced the concept of personal identification documents back in 1920. The organization promoted the idea of a global passport standard. Most passports issued today carry electronic microchips. It is true that the digitization process is advancing. However, travelers still need to have paper passports on them if they want to cross a national border.

Let us discuss one more idea that came from Australia. The virtual passport of the future is now something of an urban legend. The concept introduced in 2015 has already been put into practice. In particular, Australia has signed an agreement with New Zealand on the use of virtual passports. The EU COVID-19 passport is an example of how this will work in the future.

Identification and biometric data of the citizens of the two countries traveling back and forth are now stored on a cloud platform. This means that the Australian – New Zealand border has become ‘paper-free’ and taking an international flight is as easy as taking a domestic flight now.

After the system has been put into operation, frequent travelers can go through ‘contact-free’ control border control procedures when taking international flights. Australia was the first country that started to use ‘smart gates’ some ten years ago. It continues to develop the virtual identification systems that automates the entry inspections and allows minimizing the formalities. Personal presence of the customs officers at the entry points is no longer required. Even the passports do not have to be scanned anymore!

The Australian Government has allocated 90 million dollars to the «Seamless Traveler» program that allows using the identification data that are stored on a cloud platform. This is the direction in which the world is going today: the traditional paper documents are going to be replaced by virtual documents. And we are not talking about virtual passports of the future, but also about virtual currencies, electronic signatures, and virtual transactions.

It will be reasonable to assume that many things are going to change in the near future if the tendency continues. International airports as we know them will sink into oblivion! Paper passports will be replaced by virtual passports and thus the risk of losing your passport will become irrelevant. Traveler authentication will be performed by use of the face recognition technology so all you will have to do when crossing a national border is smile to the camera.

When it comes to Australia, we have to admit that the country is in a favorable position indeed, when it comes to the border control issues! The country has a ‘Big Brother’  government, sufficient financial resources, an ‘insular’ geographical position, and a relatively small number of international visitors arriving to the country mostly by planes.

Few other countries can boast the combination of advantages that allow Australia to successfully implement the virtual traveler identification technologies. This does not mean, however, that achieving the goal is impossible for other countries. Probably, new applications for smartphones that serve the same purpose can allow many national states to make progress in virtual identification technology implementation without spending too much money or effort.

Your smartphone may become your passport of the future

Of course, Australia is not alone in promoting virtual identification systems. Cloud technologies are rapidly developing in many parts of the world and the smartphone is often used as the link between the cloud and reality. In addition, it may become the key to international travel in the near future.

The modern smartphone is a technological miracle whose functionality improves day by day as new smartphone applications are developed. As far as border control is concerned, the smartphone has two vitally important components: it has personal identification instruments and biometric data storage possibilities. This means that your smartphone may become your passport of the future.

Airports and airline companies are lobbying for this idea. These two types of companies are usually the main targets for terrorists and they welcome all innovations that allow improving the security of their operations. For example, a Smart UAE Wallet is available in Dubai today. This is a smartphone application that can be used instead of a passport when crossing the country’s border.

The Smart UAE Wallet allows storing several state documents required to enter the country. The system developed in cooperation with Emirates Airlines is expanded as new possibilities are added to the application.

Even though Americans are more cautious when it comes to using electronic devices, they have launched a similar project anyway. Airside Aviation Company in cooperation with Airport Council International (ACI) has developed a smartphone application that allows sending the identification data to customs officers via API. This spares the smartphone owner the necessity to stand in lines at the customs control.  

Smartphone applications and microchips offer wide opportunities indeed. Many independent companies are designing personal identification applications, including those that simplify crossing national borders. They also develop electronic driving licenses that are already in use in several American states. Besides, they develop software that regulates access to industrial facilities, university exam results, and similar things.

The smartphone allows storing your biometric data such as your face, or your iris, or your fingerprints. This means that a smartphone in combination with some scanning equipment can become an inexpensive passport of the future.

The Old World is usually slower at adopting new identification technologies largely due to the strict legislation on personal data protection in Europe. The developing regions such as Africa and Asia, on the other hand, are implementing innovative digital technologies at a rapid pace acting as pioneers in this area.

Digital passports of the future are in sight but some data security issues still remain

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has already appreciated the huge potential of electronic identification and presented the Logical Data Structure 2 (LDS2) application. The goal of this application is to simplify the storage of electronic visa information and previous travel information. Microchips of a new generation are used by the application.

In 2016, the ICAO set up a new division called ‘Digital Data’ to develop the corresponding technologies. The work of the new division is supervised by the European authorities in accordance with the EU 2016/679 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Notwithstanding these efforts, however, data security risks still remain. How secure is the passport of the future going to be if it is placed on a cloud platform accessible via a smartphone? Contemporary paper-based identification documents already carry electronic chips that contain the biometric data of the document holder. Using the smartphone for this purpose as an advance of the technology but not a revolutionary one.

If you have your passport in your smartphone, you do not have to carry a paper-based passport with you but you have to carry the smartphone anyway! If you have your passport on a cloud platform, you do not have to carry anything around but then a centralized data register will be required and this is the biggest problem right now. People are reluctant to trust their Government when it comes to mass data storage. No hundred-percent secure data storage systems have been invented thus far.

The International Air Transport Association initiative for the passport of the future

Trusting the Government is not the only problem, however. Aviation companies and airports also realize the difficulties associated with virtual identification. Many parties are working on solving the related issues. Some experiments have been conducted in different parts of the world from Aruba to Dubai. The Swiss SITA company, for example, has presented the Smart Path concept while the international group of companies Thales has developed a procedure called «Fly to Gate». In both cases, the biometric data are used for passenger identification at the airports. This allows accelerating the following procedures:

  • Checking in for the flight;
  • Baggage drop-off;
  • Security control;
  • Customs control;
  • Entering the VIP zone, and so on.

The traveler smiles at the camera as he or she walks by and then ‘magic’ opens the doors! There is no need to use your paper-based passport anymore and the boarding pass is not required either.  

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggests that a system of virtual passenger identification should be used for any transboundary flights. In 2016, a world symposium was held where IATA adopted the concept of a uniform token that can be used for passenger identification. The SITA company, which is a giant airport infrastructure owner, approved of the concept. These ideas are perfectly in line with the Australian philosophy of virtual identification.

The logic of how things are developing suggests that the next step would be using a mobile token that will be stored in the smartphone and that can be used anywhere in the world where there is Internet connection. However, not all national Governments welcome the idea to delegate the personal identification task to IATA that is a commercial organization rather than a state one. National authorities are expected to want to preserve the exclusive right to issue identification documents to people.

Storing your digital identity in a blockchain as a viable alternative for the passport of the future

The two most serious barriers on the way to digital passports are the unwillingness of the government officials to delegate their authorities to private companies and the inability of national governments to create a secure universal personal database. Experts believe that using blockchain technologies could be a way out of this situation. Blockchains can be used as the basis for the passport of the future.

Blockchain technologies can eliminate the need for a global database because any link in the chain can store the information and validate its wholesomeness on an international level. Two solutions involving blockchain technologies are possible:

  • With the first model, personal data can be stored in a global blockchain. The data will be available to the relevant state bodies and customs checkpoints. The traveler will have an application in his/ her smartphone that will let him/ her give or deny access to his/ her personal information to a certain agency.
  • With the second model that is similar to the Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) system, the traveler’s data can be stored in his/ her smartphone or some other electronic device. The blockchain now will store only the certificates and use some validation instruments that can confirm that the traveler is supplying truthful information.

Modern technologies open up vast opportunities but cooperation between various interested parties is required for their implementation. Defining the common standards and creating a global control model are two tasks that have yet to be solved. The solution of several other tasks is still pending as well.

One more problem, for example, is the choice of the business model that will convince various parties that they should join the ecosystem. Experts believe that creating such a business model is currently possible only if blockchain technologies are used as the foundation for the digital passport of the future.

Passport of the future via Citizenship by Investment?

We will likely have to wait for a few years until digital passports start to be actively used in all spheres of life. You do not have to wait for so long to simplify your cross border travel however! Invest in a second passport now and acquire some unique travel advantages.

Blockchain technologies, smartphone applications, cloud platforms for storing data – regardless of the kind of innovative technology that appears, the Governments of the countries granting their citizenship to foreign investors will start using the innovations in a fast manner. When the passport of the future becomes the passport of today, the authorities of these countries will immediately make use of the new technologies and new possibilities. All that remains to do is choose the country whose citizenship you would like to acquire!

‘Selling’ citizenship to foreigners is an instrument of attracting foreign direct investment. Naturally, the countries administering citizenship-by-investment programs do their best to make the application procedures as simple as possible. In many cases, a personal visit to the country is not required in order to become its citizen and obtain a second passport. All the application documents can be submitted online and the investment can be made by a bank transfer. As far as the oath of allegiance to your second home country is concerned, you can use a videoconferencing application to make it. Currently, the immigration authorities of the countries granting citizenship to foreigners have to use the courier services to send the passports to the foreign applicants when they are ready. We are almost certain that soon they will be able to simply email the link to your electronic passport and that will suffice!  

The opportunity to acquire a second passport without leaving the comfort of your home is especially precious under the current conditions. Those who were used to travelling freely all around the world before the COVID-19 pandemic (because money was the only thing they needed for that) have suddenly found themselves in an unpleasant situation. For the first time in modern history, the movement between countries has been severely limited. Only the citizens and legal residents of most countries can enter them without any trouble at the moment.

When you have a second passport, your freedom of movement is going to be increased. You are going to be unconditionally welcomed in one country whatever happens in your home country.

In addition to that, you can acquire other valuable benefits such as better opportunities for tax planning, for example, access to new markets for your produce, a nice place to stay on a paradise island on vacations, and so on.

About a dozen countries of the world will grant their citizenship to foreign nationals in exchange for investments. The citizenship-by-investment programs have different requirements but one requirement is always present: you have to make a non-returnable donation or a returnable investment in the country’s economy in order to qualify for its citizenship. If you choose to make a returnable investment, you can invest, depending on the particular country, in real estate, in state bonds, or in a business venture. In some cases, you can simply make a fixed-term bank deposit.  

The national passport turned into a sellable product in 1984 when Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean launched the first citizenship-by-investment program. Today, the turnover in the market exceeds ten billion US dollars per year.

Apply for expert support to acquire the passport of the future

Virtual identification is a real challenge for national governments. But digital transformation seems unavoidable. You have to start preparing for the changes right now to be fully armed when they come. In this case, you will be able to use all the benefits that the changes will bring.

There is no standard way of acquiring a foreign passport. Each application is considered individually and each applicant will have some unique circumstances that will make certain choices optimal for him/ her while barring some other choice. The Offshore Pro Group team will be happy to help you analyze the available options and choose the foreign citizenship that suits you best. In addition to that, we will also gladly assist you in obtaining a legal residence permit in a reputable jurisdiction.

Apply for a personal consultation with InternationalWealth experts right now!

Is it true that the passport of the future will be stored on a cloud platform?

Yes, this possibility exists. Clouds can solve many problems related to the stealth of personal data and passport forgery. Customs officers, for example, will be able to identify the passengers by comparing their biometric data to the information in the cloud storage. National Governments are aware about this opportunity. However, there are some issues related to personal data storage on cloud platforms that have yet to be solved.

Why is passport digitalization a good idea?

After the terrorist attacks in Europe and the USA, the security measures in the airports and elsewhere have had to be strengthened. In addition to that, the number of international travelers is growing year after year. (Obviously, it has dropped recently due to the pandemic.) The combination of these two factors makes different interested parties look for some opportunities to accelerate the security check procedures. A digital passport will allow identifying the passenger in a fast and secure manner, which will improve the comfort of travel while increasing the overall level of security.

What is the difference between passport and citizenship?

Citizenship is a sort of an agreement between a private individual and a sovereign state. The agreement lists the rights and the obligations that each of the parties has. The citizen shall pay the taxes, for example, and the state shall protect his or her rights in foreign countries, and so on. A passport is a document that certifies that the holder is a citizen of a certain state. Thus, before you can obtain the passport, you have to obtain the citizenship.

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