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Will Canada become the next country to offer mobile passports?

If you have a Canadian passport, you know the deal.

Every five to 10 years, you go through the process of filling out forms, gathering photos and references and mailing it all in to Passport Canada, all in the name of renewing the little blue booklet that lets Canadians travel abroad. Once at the airport, you take it out for check-in, during security screenings, to show the gate agent and sometimes even one last time before boarding the plane from the gangway.

But if you could do it all from your phone, would you?

New public opinion research published by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada suggests officials there are considering whether Canadians should be able to renew their passport via a mobile application, as well as what Canadians’ attitudes are towards the idea of using virtual or mobile passports.

Through 15 focus groups held across the country earlier this year, participants were asked for their perspectives on what sort of “passport of the future” they would be most interested in using and as with most new technologies, there was general enthusiasm but also a marked wariness about the potential for misuse.

“While it is evident that convenience is a primary consideration for participants, so are safeguards related to ensuring the security and privacy of information,” read the report of the findings, prepared for IRCC’s Passport Program.

“Moreover, such concerns cannot be attributed to ‘fear of new technology’ among older participants, as negative reaction to the virtual passport was highest among millennials.”

Millennials and those over the age of 58 also said they would not be likely to use a mobile passport option.

As it stands now, Canada uses what’s known as an ePassport.

Introduced in 2013, passports issued since then contain an electronic chip in the back cover that holds the personal information detailed on the second printed page. Countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and France all use similar models.

The options put before the focus groups, in contrast, raise questions about both whether they could be secure enough to prevent malicious use and fraud, and also whether users would be comfortable with storing the personal and financial information used to get and use a passport on their phone.

Focus group participants were most comfortable with the idea of a passport renewal app and mobile passport and weakest when it comes to using a virtual passport.

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