Ukraine will become the first country in the world to make its digital and physical passports interchangeable.

The Ukrainian parliament in the second reading on March 30 passed the bill on digital passports. Starting on Aug. 23, Ukrainian citizens can use digital passports in the Diia mobile app to confirm their identity and citizenship.

Many other countries, including Poland and South Korea, use digital documents too, but Ukraine will become the first country where they are considered legally equivalent to ordinary ones, said Mykhailo Fedorov, minister of digital transformation.

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“It is not just an important event in Ukraine’s modern history… it is a unique global precedent that the country should be proud of,” he said.

The Diia app will automatically show all the documents a citizen has, including ID cards, biometric foreign passports, driver’s licenses and student cards. Older paper passports won’t appear in the app.

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The only place where digital passports won’t work is border checkpoints: citizens cannot use these passports to cross the country’s borders or enter Ukraine’s eastern territories temporarily occupied by Russia.

Before, digital passports were allowed only in supermarkets, post offices or certain banks.  Other institutions and businesses could refuse to accept digital documents because they didn’t technically represent the original versions.

The new bill introduced to parliament by the Ministry of Digital Transformation obliges all businesses and government bodies to accept digital passports.

For example, digital passports allow people to travel domestically by plane or by train, book hotels, open banking accounts, receive parcels and buy alcohol or cigarettes in supermarkets. All of Ukraine’s government services, courts and banks will also accept passports in Diia.

Ukrainians who still use older paper passports — half of the population — should replace them with biometric ID cards. They have electronic chips with information that helps identify a person. It takes up to 20 days to replace a paper passport with a card.

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According to Fedorov, digital passports are safer and more convenient than traditional ones.

Fedorov has struggled for a long time to make Ukraine less bureaucratic. Making digital passports official in Ukraine is one step towards that goal.

Ukraine plans to keeps reducing the number of paper documents needed for various services. For example, starting in September, government bodies will stop demanding paper documents if they have relevant information about citizens in electronic registers, Fedorov said.

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