Digital IDs – the necessity for a worldwide passport

We live in a world shaped by mobility. More and more people are choosing to work remotely and live where they want without compromising their careers.

While this trend has increased in recent years, since the pandemic, the number of digital nomads has increased worldwide is now 35 Million. AAbout 17 million of them are Americans, mostly settling in European countries.

Technology has improved along with the willingness to work from anywhere. Now it is setting the stage for the creation of a new, larger generation of digital nomads. However, the question remains Will the necessary requirements for a global working world be ready to be met?

Complicated forms and bureaucracy

International mobility poses a high barrier to entry, particularly due to the complex and excessive bureaucracy associated with migration processes in many countries.

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These issues hamper people who wish to settle in another country, as filling out all the necessary paperwork for visa applications is already a lengthy process, and waiting to receive the final documents is even worse.

Although many countries in Europe make it easier for new residents to obtain an EU work permit through the EU Work Permit Blue Card NetworkHowever, it can take anywhere from several weeks to several months for a work visa to be issued.

Furthermore, this system is highly favorable to talent from other EU countries, it does not include major countries like the UK and Ireland and was designed for people who are relocating to work in companies based in their new country and want to be there more permanently life. It was not designed for digital nomads.

It starts with the passport

Nations around the world regard the passport as the ticket of passage between borders the essential document that allows citizens to exit and enter different countries.

The modern passport has its Origins lie in the period after the First World War and was founded with the aim of helping citizens from Western countries to get around the world. More than a century later, the same document is still common practice. But the world is a very different place than it used to be, as travel is accessible to more people and much more common due to advances in transportation.

An example of this mechanism failing to meet the needs of today’s modern workforce can be seen in countries such as China, the Philippines and India. These countries are attractive for recruiting their highly qualified talent, especially for technology companies in Europe and the United States. Vice versa according to Henley Pass Index 2023the three countries have some of the “weakest” passports in the world.

EU nomad visas = progress!

In recent years, several nations across Europe have taken new steps to meet the needs of nomadic talent by introducing nomadic visas. These visas are mutually beneficial as they simplify the processes required for non-residents to work in a foreign country (usually without paying local taxes), while also making those countries more attractive to international workers. This in turn attracts more skilled talent spending more money in the countries.

Among EU countries, the trend is increasing, with countries like Croatia, Greece, Estonia (the first) one who does), Hungary, Portugal and Spain currently offer a few variations of this type of visa, and more are likely to follow in the future. In fact, Spain is already the second most popular country for digital nomads with more than 125,000 of them.

While these visas are a very good first step in modernizing global passport systems to accommodate new migration and global mobility trends, they are more of a band-aid than a disease-stopping antibiotic. To redefine the passport system, the world needs to think bigger and implement a system that can be used anywhere.

Digital IDs… please

The answer to the global modernization of the passport system is to create a secure digital identity for everyone. Creating a secure digital platform where all documents are shared with governments around the world would enable the development of a digital passport that would be accepted and recognized by all countries.

While some may have concerns about sharing personal information in globally shared databases (or fear conspiracy theories about a new world order), creating a secure digital platform with proper safeguards would offer world citizens a safer method than the systems in place.

This system would drastically reduce the time it takes to get permission to enter the country, while contributing to a more sustainable future in which there would be no need to produce paper for passports.

The use of automation technologies in relocation and immigration processes helps both those willing to relocate and companies looking for international talent. The use of technology in the relocation process saves time, reduces the workload for companies and professionals and increases control and effectiveness.

Estonia and X-Road

I have seen Estonia transform in a short space of time from one of the poorest countries in the world to an open and democratic society that not only functions but thrives as a showcase for technology-driven governance and innovation. This is because more than 20 years ago the country decided to build a platform called X-Road, the backbone of digital Estonia.

The key to this is a digital identity for every citizen that allows public and private databases to connect and work in harmony. Estonians can do anything online (except get married or divorce). From filing taxes to voting in elections, everything is done securely online and takes about as long as verifying an Instagram account.

Digitization saves Estonia a stack of paper as tall as the Eiffel Tower every month, and according to Siim Sikkut, CIO of Estonia, Estonia can save just by using digital signature two percent of its GDP every year.

Now imagine a similar system on a global scale that allows people to upload their data and documents (e.g. passports, marriage certificates and education certificates) to an intelligent system that converts the data into pieces that can be associated with relevant forms of government in different government systems worldwide can be compared.

These digital IDs shared in this interlocking system could act as a digital passport and with one click immigration applications are created, submitted and digitally tracked. Imagine digital nomads never having to fill out immigration forms again, no matter which country they move to. Add to that all the processes, paperwork and bureaucracy that employers would never have to waste time on again.

Build a richer world

Although the passport defines our specific residence and homeland, I firmly believe that we are all citizens of the world today. We want to work anywhere, for any company, and a universal digital passport could make this really scalable without wasting time and resources. Digital passports could expand opportunities beyond borders and help us build a richer world for all.

Karoli Hindriks is the CEO and founder of Jobbatical and has been an entrepreneur since she was 16 when she started her first company – making her the youngest inventor in Estonia. She was named one of the 50 most influential women in the European startup and VC space by EU Startups and named one of the eight most inspiring women in Europe by the EU Council in 2020. Karoli was a 2017 nominee speaker for Fortune Magazine’s Most Strong Women International Summit and in 2021 she was a speaker at the TED Conference in Monterey, California her lecture has already been translated into fourteen languages.

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