08 Dec 20237 min readin ID verification & biometrics

Identity Verification of Foreigners: A View from the Digital Nomads’ Perspective

Henry Patishman

Executive VP, Identity Verification solutions at Regula

In our recent research of identity verification and the digital nomad movement, one of the subjects we studied was the typical flow that nomads follow when entering a new country.

Once a nomad arrives, they have a ton of paperwork to do in a short period of time: finding a place to live, getting a bank card to pay bills, buying a local mobile to call friends—you name it.

Most of these tasks involve identity verification (IDV)!

We surveyed a bunch of digital nomads and got some insights into the touchpoints where they struggle most, and also which steps seem more user-friendly along their journey.

Here is what we found out.

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Two-thirds of digital nomads have trouble understanding instructions during the verification process

For our survey, we contacted digital nomads residing in Germany, Mexico, Spain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US). Particularly, we wanted to know whether they encountered language barriers or faced any difficulties in understanding the instructions during the verification process.

The answer was stunning, as 70% of respondents said “Yes.”

% of digital nomads who have encountered language barriers or difficulties in understanding the instructions during the verification process

The “leader” is Mexico, with almost 80% of nomads having faced these issues. It’d be natural to assume that this is because the country has the smallest English-speaking population (around 13%, Wikipedia says). However, this doesn’t explain why nomads in the UK and US face the same issues nearly as much.

Another idea that would explain the situation is that the language and wording used in such procedures are too official and hard to understand for non-native speakers. If this is so, then it’s purely a matter of UX, proper localization, and efforts within the countries themselves to convey their message with more clarity.

Tourist destinations receive better ratings for their travel-related industries

Mexico and Spain are topping the list of popular destinations for tourists, so they've got an infrastructure for comfortable stays for both regular travelers and digital nomads. And, sure enough, our survey confirms it. 

The data shows that the Hospitality and Transport industries are nailing it: just 6% of digital nomads mentioned having any trouble buying airline tickets or checking in in these countries. Also, location-independent workers described renting accommodation as a positive experience.

However, it seems some sectors in countries with tourism-centric economies aren’t yet ready for an increase in foreign customers who stay long-term. For example, a significant proportion of respondents (30%) state that applying for new documents required in Mexico is challenging.

Locals and digital nomads have some common concerns

Digital nomads aren’t typical tourists or permanent residents, but something in between. According to a recent survey, 80% of digital nomads prefer to stay in one place for three to nine months, with a sweet spot at six months. This means they sometimes face the same problems as residents. 

For instance, nomads surveyed by Regula who are currently living in the US and Germany talked about the difficulties in finding long-term accommodations. The fact is that it can be tough even for locals in these countries, not to mention foreigners. It’s not surprising that renting an apartment, room, or house is one of the most frustrating scenarios for location-independent workers in these countries, considering most of them live out of a suitcase. 

This all means that it’s not that simple for countries to prepare for the digital nomad movement, as it requires not only solving new challenges but also tackling long-standing difficulties.

Interestingly, the main nationality of digital nomads worldwide is American, so investing in the effective processing of US IDs is definitely worth a shot. Read also: Top-Notch ID Document Processing Worldwide: USA

Government agencies can reap the benefits of automation

Many issues for digital nomads are related to all sorts of official paperwork. These challenges reveal the need for streamlined automated processes in these areas to improve the digital nomad experience.

Among the use cases that caused the most frustration in terms of identity verification is obtaining new residency documents. This scenario was primarily underlined by digital nomads in Mexico (30%), the United Arab Emirates (UAE, 18%), and the United Kingdom (UK, 18%).

Interestingly, digital nomads also mentioned difficulties when applying for a visa in both UAE (25%) and Mexico (20%), countries that now provide digital nomad visas. Seemingly, lack of automation in the process may be one of the problem points. For instance, getting a Mexican digital nomad visa requires filling out application forms manually, as well as repeated physical visits to the embassy.  

A good example of how this issue is effectively treated is Thailand. Thai authorities providing a Smart Visa for highly qualified foreign specialists (including digital nomads) implemented a remote scenario for applicants. As a result, the whole paper process starts only after pre-checking when the applicant data is verified.

Read the full report: Identity Verification in a Globalized World

Aviation and Transport show less friction in identity verification

Finally, let’s take a look at the industries that are last on the list of digital nomad IDV frustrations. As the survey results show, boarding a flight, renting a car, and registering at ride-hailing services are challenges for the smallest number of respondents. This trend is also evident when analyzing the data in different countries.

The high adaptation rate of IDV automation and digitalization in these industries may be a reason. For instance, larger airlines, such as AirAsia and WizzAir, provide passengers with mobile applications for self-check-in. As a result, the process is faster and paperless, while remaining secure and reliable.

The bottom line

As digital nomads increasingly shape the landscape of modern work and travel, the need for streamlined and efficient identity verification processes becomes paramount. 

At Regula, we understand the importance of addressing these challenges, for both businesses and nomads. By implementing our tried and tested strategies, you can contribute to a more seamless and secure journey for digital nomads worldwide. 

Contact Regula today to explore how we can help you adapt to the changing needs of this growing community.

Identity Verification in a Globalized World

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