Will We Still Be Looking at Passports in 20 Years?

By his own admission, Renaud Laffont-Leenhardt, Product Line Director for Travel Documents at Thales, will have long retired by 2044, but that didn’t stop him from presenting a compelling vision for travel documents at the recent Optical & Digital Document Security™ 2024 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. 

His paper delved into the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technological advancements in passport design and verification, posing the critical question: will physical documents still be designed primarily for human inspection in 20 years’ time? 

Dual issuance 

It comes as no surprise that LaffontLeenhardt predicts that, by 2044, passports will be issued in both physical and digital formats. This dual system will streamline travel processes, allowing travelers to use digital credentials for pretrip procedures such as checkin and border control. Facial recognition will become the primary identification method. 

During peak travel seasons or unexpected events like pandemics, digital travel documents could be issued instantly upon application approval, while awaiting the physical document. In cases of loss or theft, an emergency digital travel document could be issued. 

Despite the rise of digital documents, physical passports will continue to play a crucial role, reflecting a fundamental human need for tangible identification and symbolising national sovereignty and individual rights. 

Enhanced security

The evolution of ePassports will see a proliferation of visual security features. The trend towards multiple portraits in documents will continue, utilising various personalisation techniques to deter forgery. These include laser engraving, lens incorporation, clear windows, perforations, and inkjet printing.

While this complexity enhances security, it also poses verification challenges for border officers and increases personalisation time. 

Machine-only verifiable features will become more integrated, aligning with the growing prevalence of automated border controls. These advances will strike a balance between enhancing security and maintaining efficiency in verification processes. 


The advent of quantum computing presents significant opportunities and challenges. By 2044, quantum computers are expected to be capable of breaking current encryption algorithms quickly. In response, ePassports will incorporate quantum-safe algorithms, ensuring robust protection against emerging threats. These quantum-resilient security measures will safeguard personal and national security, preventing the forging of documents and the theft of biometric data. 

Passports will be designed with crypto-agility, allowing for updates to cryptographic algorithms throughout the document’s lifespan. This adaptability will be facilitated either during border crossings or via smartphone apps. 

AI is set to revolutionise passport design and verification. It will enhance the development of secure embedded software and refine fraud detection mechanisms at border controls. AI’s ability to analyse and adapt to the latest forgery techniques will enable the creation of more tamper-evident security features, ensuring passports remain ahead of counterfeiters. 

AI will also streamline the verification process at borders, improving optical character recognition and aiding border officers in document validation. However, as AI empowers security measures, it will also enable fraudsters to develop more sophisticated counterfeits, necessitating a continuous and dynamic approach to security. 


Environmental sustainability will become a cornerstone of passport design. Future passports will incorporate recycled materials and reduce reliance on virgin paper stock, reflecting a broader societal shift towards environmental responsibility. 

Data pages will be made from recycled polycarbonate, maintaining durability and security while reducing environmental impact. Passports will also feature fewer visa pages due to less frequent fewer visa pages due to less frequent stamping.