Google Wallet could let you save your passport to your phone — but don’t expect to use it to travel yet

Google wallet icon on blue background in corner of phone screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Heading to the airport for an international flight can be a stressful experience, but the worst part is constantly checking that you have your passport with you before you arrive; no passport means your trip is ruined before it begins. 

But Android users in the U.S. may not have to worry about that in future — now that Google Wallet seems to be getting digital passport support. Code for adding an e-passport as an I pass was first spotted by Android Authority back in May, and would be usable at “select TSA checkpoints”. 

Now, according to Assemble Debug, the feature now looks ready to rollout. All it needs is to be added to the stable public version of Google Wallet. The way it works is that you can scan your phone to an NFC reader, or have someone scan a QR code on the digital ID pass.

In places where this tech is supported, it should verify your identity. Though it isn't clear how widespread this support will be, and it’s unlikely that all airports will have the necessary tools to use digital passports right away. 

Originally, the Google Wallet code stated that the digital e-passport “isn’t an official ID and doesn’t replace your physical passport”. In other words, you may be able to enjoy the convenience of storing a passport in your phone, but you will still need to carry your actual passport just in case.

After all, the tech may fail and batteries may die, which would leave you stranded, or you may find yourself in a spot that doesn’t accept digital passports. Whether that’s the TSA or a foreign border, you don’t want to be turned away because they need to see your physical passport. So think of the digital version as a backup or last resort, kind of like carrying a photocopy of a passport with you on your trips.

It’s not a replacement for a genuine passport, but if you somehow lose your documents then it could be used to help verify your identity. Plus, like Apple Wallet’s digital ID feature, it may also be able to verify your age and identity in certain restricted apps. But we’ll have to wait for a more formal announcement on that.

The feature will only be available to U.S. passport holders for the time being, and I wouldn't count on e-passports being usable for international travel anytime soon. 

But maybe one day in the near future we can travel to the airport without constantly checking our pockets to make sure the passports are still there. Or having those anxiety-induced dreams about leaving it at home. Or is that just me?

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.