Police think delivering passports, ID documents via courier not safe

While the U.S. is happy to mail passports, the Estonian authorities think that even handing them to traceable couriers isn't safe enough.
While the U.S. is happy to mail passports, the Estonian authorities think that even handing them to traceable couriers isn't safe enough. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

While the foreign minister has proposed that Estonian citizens could receive passports and ID cards by courier in the future, neither the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) nor the Ministry of the Interior are currently working on any such project. On the contrary, both quote principles as well as development issues as major obstacles.

By handing personal documents to an individual, the state guarantees that this individual is who they say they are, the Police and Border Guard's Margit Ratnik told ERR (link in Estonian). This means that authorities need to exercise appropriate care also in the delivery of those documents.

Mailing documents not safe, tracking too expensive, say PPA

So far, the Estonian authorities have applied the principle that they hand over documents such as passports and ID cards to the applicant directly, to get the chance to check their identity this way. Meanwhile, plenty of other countries send out passports by courier—or even via regular mail, like the United States do it.

The Estonian authorities think that this option is not safe, and that tracking the delivery is too expensive—adding to the difficulties already caused by Estonia's limited budget for foreign representations, as distances between Estonians abroad and the nearest diplomatic representation can be considerable.

Applying for personal documents inconvenient, expensive and time-consuming

As Estonia's honorary consul in Los Angeles, Jaak Treiman puts it, the travel involved isn't proportional. "The distance from Hawaii to Los Angeles is about the same as from Tallinn to Afghanistan. These poor people have to buy a plane ticket, spend seven, eight hours in the air to get to me, then they're here for perhaps five minutes, have to stay somewhere for the night, and then fly home," Treiman told ERR's Aktuaalne kaamera newscast.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said last week that passports may soon be sent out via courier, with applicants paying for this themselves.

"Currently, applying for identity documents is inconvenient, expensive and time-consuming for Estonians living abroad as they have to go to the representation in person both to apply for and pick up the document," Reinsalu said, explaining the background of his proposal.

Within a few years, citizens should be able to contact the state just once: applying for documents should take place in an electronic environment, and the documents, once ready, should be delivered by courier, if a secure courier service can be ensured, the minister added.

Reinsalu announcement a surprise, say officials

According to police officials, this came as a surprise. While Ratnik does confirm that the application for all of Estonia's personal documents is to be brought online, at least the Police and Border Guard (PPA) aren't planning to change the way they are delivered anytime soon.

Ruth Annus, in charge of the Ministry of the Interior's department for citizenship and migration policy, also told ERR that there are currently no plans to make sending out passports by courier an option, as this would require IT development, the ministry's money for which is currently allocated to projects with a higher priority. Only once a government decision in the issue is made will there be a reason to start planning and preparing the required estimates, she said.

Reinsalu: Current system doesn't do justice to Estonian image as efficient state

Though the state fees for passports and other documents do not currently cover the cost of issuing and forwarding documents, Reinsalu thinks the current situation does need to change, suggesting that as Estonia has managed to simplify plenty of other administrative issues, this shouldn't be an exception.

"We're proud of our e-state and all that we can do with it, that the only thing we need to show up for is getting married, so I think that as other countries haven't had any greater problems, we can think of a more human option as well," Reinsalu said.

In addition to identity documents, Reinsalu's proposal also touches on the issuing of e-residency cards, which also requires showing up in person at a foreign representation in most cases. Plans under the proposal seek to increase the number of external service points that would issue both e-residency as well as ID cards for Estonian citizens.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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