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Finland tests digital passports at Helsinki airport

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Finland is currently testing the use of digital passports at Helsinki airport as part of efforts to speed up border control procedures, project officials told AFP.

The Digital Travel Credentials (DTC) scheme was launched on August 28 for direct Finnair flights to three British destinations — London, Manchester and Edinburgh. It only works at Helsinki airport, and not at the British destinations.

The pilot project, which the Finnish Border Guard said it believed was a world first, “is a first step in how the future of travel might be,” border guard inspector Mikko Vaisanen told AFP.

Travellers wanting to take part have to first download a special DTC app on their smartphone.

They must then go in person to a Helsinki police station, where a digital version of their passport is created by scanning the enclosed chip.

They are also photographed to allow facial recognition at the airport.

Once the DTC has been loaded onto the passport, travellers must send their flight details to the Finnish Border Guard up to 36 hours — but no later than four hours — before their flight.

At Helsinki airport, a special queue at the border control is reserved for those with a DTC.

There, travellers scan their closed passport and face a camera, where a border control officer compares the image with the picture that was taken at the police station and is now stored on the passport chip.

Since the person’s information has been sent in advance, border guards have already conducted background checks and the traveller is authorised to pass.

Project participants need only go to the police station once. After that they can use their DTC as often as they like, provided they register their travel details before each trip.

“We have daily passengers travelling with DTC,” Vaisanen said, adding that detailed user statistics were not yet available.

The project, which received 2.3 million euros in funding from the European Commission, will run until February 2024.

Finland is awaiting a legislative proposal from the European Commission before fully integrating the scheme into its current border control system.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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