Are digital passports really cheaper?

Written by Iain Phillips, CNN

Cumbersome lines and notoriously vague passport requirements have led to a booming business in digital passports in recent years.

Standing in line at border control for over two hours is nothing new. If you’re a Canadian, this might be the norm.

But getting a digital ticket instead is a smaller problem — you can just use your personal e-passport number as an online voucher.

Artificial intelligence has now brought this ease of use to many other countries as well, with more than 100 countries, including Sweden, Norway and Britain, adopting digital passports of their own.

The UK government introduced a digital passport on March 31, replacing a two-page passport with a single user-friendly card with full digital validity. That’s good news for those rushing to sample the journey — a digital passport is a lot more convenient to the point of almost no actual carrying.

If digital is really the new passport, that might mean you may never have to lose it again in first class. But — or rather, in this specific case — it may make things a lot more expensive.

Costing as much as the old currency, the tumbling value of the pound and no international trade agreement with the USA after Brexit, digital passports are likely to become even more popular.

Significant payouts

Online, local travel agents are having an increasing influence on how governments arrange their passports.

“It’s always going to depend on how they’re structured. I’d say that ‘just in case’ is probably the most common solution,” says Irishman David Crowley, who runs Travel Logic – a firm that sends out digital electronic passports to people in Cyprus.

“Another solution is if someone has a genuine need for any amount of money. So let’s say if I go to Cyprus, they will just pay me, say €100, and I have a US dollar for the rest. Which means I still have a US dollar, but it’s just in my other purse for the night.”

But more often than not, it’s a combination of factors that might prompt travelers to pay to insure against any possible overseas losses, as Crowley knows all too well.

“Every month I get people who come to me who have lost their passport in a place like Dubai. Sometimes they’re dropped by their friends, and they go back to me, and sometimes they’re sent home,” he says.

While passports should have no trouble being replaced abroad, easy returns often aren’t feasible. Though how much of a hassle a lost or stolen digital passport will be remains to be seen.

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