The Digital Traveller: the next leap forward in international travel

by Ben Brown - Consulting Lead for Home Office and Digital Borders
| minutes read

International travel is experiencing transformational change. The way we all cross international borders will look and feel completely different in five years as contactless, seamless and frictionless travel becomes the norm.  Did you know that the technology to make this happen is, largely, already available and in use?  What’s more, immigration and border authorities worldwide have shown a real appetite to test, implement and scale solutions that will revolutionise the passenger experience and transform the way that  the private and public sector deliver services. 

At Sopra Steria, we believe this future of truly ‘Digital Travel’ is just round the corner.

What is the ‘Digital Traveller’?

A ‘Digital Traveller’ is someone who can apply for permission to travel to a country and cross it safely and securely without having to come into direct or physical contact with a border or immigration authority.

To deliver a truly digital travel experience, the following must be in place:

  • Digital permissions to travel, enabled by smartphone digital identity capture
  • Automated security checks, conducted before passengers arrive at the border
  • Contactless border crossings, for the majority, making use of eGates and biometric corridors
  • Person centric notifications, to help passengers comply with the terms of their visit/stay
  • Automated renewal to stay in the host country and count passengers in and out

Digital permissions – the bedrock of digital travel

The potential created through the adoption of digital permissions to travel will be revolutionary. Australia led the charge by rolling out their Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) system in 1996. The UK Home Office plans to introduce a new ETA scheme for non-visa nationals in 2023 and, after that, to rollout digital permission to travel for all passengers. 

Introducing digital permissions to travel are the bedrock of digital travel as they:

  • Increase safety and security for travellers and the wider public.  How? By capturing more relevant information about a passenger and moving security checks upstream, before they receive permission or arrive in a host country.

  • Facilitate safe and contactless immigration and border journeys for the vast majority of passengers who pose no risk. This delivers a vastly improved user experience and enables a sharper focus on travellers who may present a risk.

  • Put data at the heart of the immigration and border system. This creates opportunities to introduce other innovations that benefit security as well as the passenger experience; for example,  by considering a traveller’s entire immigration and border history to provide more tailored services.

And it all starts (and ends) with data

Data, in one form or another, has always been at the heart of the immigration and border system. However, successfully implementing digital travel and digital permissions means taking a new approach to the use of this data.  It’s clear that data sharing standards and open APIs will create the interoperable systems that enable border and immigration authorities to achieve the person centric approach needed to deliver the digital traveller vision. This will accelerate collaboration between immigration and border services, delivering richer, more relevant and useful information, enabling authorities to target their efforts (and budgets) in areas they will have most value. 


At Sopra Steria, we work with governments across Europe to implement innovative ways to deliver the digital traveller experience and we have recently developed a prototype ETA app to show how applicants could apply and receive a digital permission. To find out more, get in touch with Ben Brown, Sopra Steria’s Consulting Lead for Borders -




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