05 Feb 20247 min readin ID verification & biometrics

Identity Verification in a Globalized World [New Research]

Henry Patishman

Executive VP, Identity Verification solutions at Regula

Digital nomadism is now a part of everyday life for millions of people. However, the ability to work from anywhere requires certain preparation for the accepting country. Not least, it involves the process of identity verification (IDV): from the moment a digital nomad applies for a visa and rents an apartment to the moment they buy strong beverages in a grocery store.

Regula partnered with Sapio Research to survey 750 fraud prevention decision-makers and 750 digital nomads from the US, UK, Germany, Spain, UAE, and Mexico to find out:

  • How effectively are businesses around the world coming to terms with the digital nomad movement? 

  • What tools do they use to verify the identities of nomads? 

  • How do nomads themselves feel about the IDV processes they have to undergo each time they settle in a new location?


Here’s what we learned.

Key findings

  • 92% of businesses verify more foreign documents
  • Half of surveyed business decision makers report a significant new revenue boost — of 21% or more — attributed to digital nomads.
  • 80% of surveyed business decision-makers noticed an increase in identity fraud, which they associate directly with the growth of international clientele.


And that’s not all we learned. We asked plenty of questions on both sides, so read on or get the full version of the report in your inbox.

Identity Verification in a Globalized World

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Why study digital nomads in the context of IDV?

The digital nomad movement has shifted from being a niche lifestyle to a global phenomenon in recent years. Our research indicates that 92% of businesses worldwide are grappling with an increased volume of foreign documents requiring verification. 

Notably, half of these businesses report a significant revenue boost of 21% or more attributed to digital nomads. In the United States, 62% of surveyed business decision-makers confirmed this.

For businesses, there’s a clear opportunity to boost their revenue if they manage to ride the trend.

share of businesses by industries attributing over 21% of their new revenue to digital nomads

The digital nomad lifestyle without the glamor

Contrary to the Instagram-style image often associated with the digital nomad lifestyle, reality paints a different picture. Wherever they go, digital nomads navigate a complex bureaucratic maze and often have to overcome a language barrier. Naturally, they deal with identity verification systems more frequently than an average person does.

popular scenarios involving identity verification for digital nomads

Of course, the exact scenarios and their distributions are country-specific. For instance, digital nomads face the need to verify their identity while applying for work permits in the UAE (39%) and the US (36%) more frequently than nomads in other regions. In Mexico, digital nomads tend to apply for insurance (and verify identities in this context) more often than in Germany: 60% vs. 28%.

The young full-time software professional: Portrait of a digital nomad

The majority of travel workers are 25-44 years old. The community comprises roughly an equal number of men (49%) and women (51%).

Interestingly, only 18% of travel workers are freelancers, contrary to stereotypical beliefs about digital nomads. Most (68%) are full-time workers employed in a specific company. Business owners (13%) represent a minority of the community.

Software (12%), Banking, and Education (both 9%) are among the industries where many digital nomads work.

Not all countries are equally well equipped to cater to digital nomads’ needs

When investigating digital nomads’ journey, Regula compiled a list of typical activities requiring them to confirm their identity.

We also compared how smoothly these activities are performed across six locations popular among the digital nomad community: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico.

Through this approach, the survey brought to light a comparative ranking of countries where businesses encounter difficulties in accommodating users who possess foreign identity documents.

CountryThe most frustrating ID verification scenario


Renting an apartment / room / house - 16%


Applying for new documents - 30%


Conducting financial transactions - 17%


Applying for a visa - 25%


Opening a new bank account - 21%


Buying airline tickets, registering at car-sharing services - 22%

CountryThe most user-friendly ID verification scenario


Renting a car - 17%


Checking into a hotel - 26%


Checking into a hotel - 21%


Opening a new bank account - 26%


Checking into a hotel - 22%


Checking into a hotel, Opening a new bank account - 22%

Surprisingly, the United States emerged as the most frustrating destination for holders of foreign passports when it comes to identity verification processes. Digital nomads in the US faced difficulties during specific stages, including:

  • buying airline tickets (22%) 

  • crossing the border (21%)

  • checking into a hotel/ renting accommodation (19%)


In the second spot, the United Arab Emirates presents its share of hurdles, particularly related to applying for a visa (25%), followed by applying for new documents (18%). Essential arrangements, such as buying airline tickets, checking into a hotel, and filling in medical insurance papers were mentioned by 17% of the nomads surveyed.

At the same time, Germany stands out as a prime example of effective identity verification for foreigners. Despite issues in getting long-term accommodation, the majority of other verification use cases, such as opening a bank account (10%), completing medical insurance paperwork (9%), and activating a new mobile phone or SIM card (7%) are pretty seamless.

Some painful issues for digital nomads aren’t directly related to identity verification

Once a nomad enters a country, they have a ton of formalities to handle within a tight deadline: finding a place to live, getting a bank card to pay bills, buying a local mobile to call friends without burning a hole in their pocket, and more. 

The most common issues, however, seem to revolve around validity rather than first-time onboarding anywhere:

  • Document validity periods (19%). Most identification documents come with expiration dates. When a digital nomad is away from their home country, renewing these documents on time can be problematic. 

  • Providing proof of residency (19%). Digital nomads often lack a fixed residential address, making it hard to furnish traditional proof of residency documents like utility bills or rental agreements.

  • Inconsistencies in information because of frequently changing locations (18%). Constant travel and changes in location can result in inconsistencies in the information provided during ID verification, potentially causing delays or rejections.

  • Trust and credibility (18%). Nomads may encounter skepticism or a lack of trust from institutions due to the unconventional nature of their lifestyle and work arrangements.


Naturally, the extent of these challenges differs depending on the country. For instance, while 25% of nomads report struggling with proof of residency in the UAE, only 12% report the same challenge in the UK. 

Similarly, while only 14% of nomads based in Spain report any issues with the inconsistencies of changing locations frequently, 28% of UAE-based nomads again cite this as a major challenge. And while only 9% of Germany-based nomads report facing a lack of trust from institutions due to their unconventional lifestyle, it remains a challenge for 26% of US-based nomads. 

Also, when asked about their main concerns, digital nomads suggested three major risks they associate with the necessity of identity verification. First of all, they are afraid of losing their IDs or them being stolen. Second, they also worry that, not only can their physical documents be stolen, but their identity data itself is potentially at risk. This explains the third concern about using public Wi-Fi for remote identity verification processes, as they believe it can expose digital nomads to hacking attempts, man-in-the-middle attacks, and other cybersecurity threats.

the main concerns of digital nomads related to identity verification process

Businesses have to verify foreign IDs more often

There are some issues from a business perspective as well: first of all, the growing number of foreign document verification cases. 92% of businesses have already witnessed an increase, which amounts to 21% on average. Industry-wise, Travel & Hospitality reported the smallest increase (15%), while Insurance (27%) and Finance (25%) are leading the way.

Generally, US passports seem to be the most common in identity verification scenarios abroad: they were submitted in 34% of all the cases mentioned. This correlates with the general trend that American is the main nationality of digital nomads worldwide, so investing in effective processing of US IDs is worth a shot.

At the same time, businesses located in the UAE have to face the most significant diversity in terms of foreign IDs. While just three or four passports are mostly well ahead of the rest in other countries, the frequency of different nationalities beyond the top three is significant here.

the most verified passports distributed across countries: the American passport is in the top three everywhere except Germany

The more digital nomads, the more cases of identity fraud

80% of surveyed business decision-makers noticed an increase in identity fraud, which they associate directly with the growth of digital nomads among their clients. On average, this increase was estimated at 14%. The highest rates were reported by the Insurance (22%) and Finance (19%) industries.

Naturally, this caused additional concerns about digital nomads. 

40% of all surveyed representatives from businesses are generally worried that if some digital nomads attempt to use fake documents, it’ll be challenging to detect. One of the major reasons for this is the lack of document uniformity. Document types and their security features vary between countries, which may cause hiccups in document verification processes.

Another important factor mentioned by 36% of business decision-makers is language barriers. If a document is issued in a foreign language, it makes it difficult for staff to understand the content and accurately verify the information.

Interestingly, the language barrier during IDV is a pain point for digital nomads themselves: 70% of them encountered language barriers or difficulties in understanding the instructions during the process. Improving localization can be a win-win for both parties.

Over half of businesses have already implemented biometric verification and accept electronic documents only

In response to the shifting landscape, businesses are adopting innovative methods and technologies for identity verification. They believe they need to increase their IDV budget by 20% to keep up with the trend.

Among the methods, biometric verification tops the list, with 57% of those surveyed already implementing it in their workflows. Verifying e-documents is the second most popular option: 53% already have it. One-third of those surveyed have plans to implement either option within a year.

technologies for preventing fraud during digital onboarding

Turning frustrations into a nomad-friendly scenario

At the heart of the above-mentioned challenges for digital nomads lies an imperfect ID verification flow, with each country and business enforcing its own unique rules, often lacking streamlined processes for foreign document verification.

It’s obvious that organizations can benefit significantly from the rising nomadism trend if they play their cards right. After all, digital nomads are also great consumers at the height of their purchasing power. 

Below, we suggest three tips on how each entity could bring the process to a new level, boosting both security and user experience.

TIP #1: Extend the list of supported documents

Regula’s survey also revealed that 35% of nomads complained about limited ID document type support in some apps. To address this issue and create a more inclusive verification process, service providers need to extend the list of supported documents.

By broadening the range of acceptable identification documents, businesses can accommodate a more diverse group of users, including those who possess less common types of ID. 

Of course, this is easier said than done. Collecting a vast database of all possible ID variations is a challenge on its own. But being able to regularly and promptly update it brings the task to a whole new level. The issue is that you need a reference template, not only to get a general idea of what a certain document looks like, but to be able to analyze if everything is valid and in the right place.

Fortunately, there are already proven solutions on the market. Regula serves its identity verification solution with an extensive database that comprises over 13,000 identity document templates from all over the world. Given Regula’s strong background in document forensics, it’s the world's most comprehensive collection, and is also well-maintained.

TIP #2: Enable remote identity verification when possible

A lack of remote verification capabilities was a concern for 19% of surveyed nomads. In today's digital age, where mobility is a fundamental part of work and life, the ability to undergo identity verification remotely is crucial.

To address this concern, organizations can work on implementing remote identity verification solutions where possible. This not only enhances convenience, but also aligns with the nomadic lifestyle, allowing individuals to verify their identity while on the move. 

Of course, this strategy naturally requires investing considerable resources in the technical side. A world-class remote IDV pipeline consists of five steps aligned with a general “ID plus selfie” framework. They involve:

  • Collecting accurate identity data 

  • Verifying document authenticity

  • Using biometrics to bind a document with its presenter

  • Assessing quality for all submitted images and videos

  • Conducting liveness checks (for both individuals and their IDs)

The last element of the puzzle—but certainly not the least—is securely handling all this sensitive data.

Luckily, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, as there are proven solutions that can cover the whole workflow. Regula is one of the few providers that serves as a one-stop-shop for solving this challenge.

TIP #3: Translate identity verification services into more languages

To make the verification process more accessible and user-friendly, service providers can and should take steps to localize their identity verification services into a broader range of languages. 

By offering multilingual support, businesses can cater to a more diverse user base, making it easier for digital nomads from different linguistic backgrounds to complete the verification process accurately and successfully.

Unlike the two previous strategies, this one is perhaps the one that demands the least resources, as long as you partner with a decent IDV service provider. Despite some natural associated costs, the ability (and willingness) of the IDV provider to offer localization is the most crucial factor to consider. Normally, such investments pay off in no time.

Identity Verification in a Globalized World

Get full report

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