Global e-passport market won’t reach pre-Covid levels until 2024: report

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According to analyst firm ABI Research, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the worldwide shipments of e-passports to drop from 192 million in 2019 to 116 million in 2020.

The sharp decline in issuance levels, a year-on-year (YoY) decrease of -39%, has been attributed to border closures, severe restrictions on international travel, and shutdowns for credential enrolment and personalization centers.

“Not surprisingly, of all the credential types, the e-passport market has been the most significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Sam Gazeley, digital security analyst at ABI Research.

“The e-passport shipment levels in passport-heavy countries such as the United States and China declined by over 40% Year on Year (YoY). However, it is also important to note that smart national ID programs around the world have experienced significant postponements. The anticipated Philippine, Kenyan, and Nigerian projects, for example, are now not expected to begin until late 2021 or early 2022.”

Smart driver’s license shipments fell to 56 million units in 2020, down from 57 million units in 2019, driven mainly by Covid-19 induced project delays or postponements. 

“Brazil will see the rollout of mobile driver’s licenses in 2022, but this will remain a companion to the physical credential. e-ID issuance showed a YoY decline of -11.6% from 2019 to 2020, falling to 275 million units. Projects that have already begun issuance, such as those in Turkey, Italy, and Bangladesh, will continue to issue, but at reduced volumes,” Gazeley explained.

YoY growth for e-passport shipments stands at a considerable decline of -39.8% between 2019 and 2020, falling to 116.2 million units. ABI Research said it believes the e-passport market will not recover to pre-Covid levels until 2024/2025 for most regions.

As countries continue to enter and exit lockdowns and experience disruption to everyday life, the passport market has seen a sharp downturn as international travel opportunities remain largely reduced and inconsistent. From a more granular perspective, the effect of Covid-19 on the global passport market has been twofold.

“First, significant travel restrictions and closures of borders have limited the use cases of the passport to an in-country form of identification. For countries that already use another credential — such as a national ID and driver’s license — as their primary ID format, the passport is struggling to find traction especially as it relates to replacement rates owing to a high end-user cost. Second, those citizens who have elected to renew their passports throughout 2020 met significant delays in the credential issuance due to closures of enrollment and personalization centers,” Gazeley said.

To reduce levels of contact and enable social distancing, many governments have sought to limit or close nonessential offices and centers, and in some instances, this included departments that contain credential personalization.

“As such, passport renewals will experience a backlog because personalization centers will be issuing pre-requested passports before issuing newer replacements once lockdowns begin to fully lift,” said Gazeley.

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