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Sam Marchant, Product Specialist for SITA AT BORDERS discusses the attributes of SITA Mobile Travel Authorization (MTA) and the benefits this innovative app brings for frictionless travel.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is collaborating with our customers, tackling some of the biggest challenges the travel industry is facing, and developing cutting-edge technology to make travel across borders a breeze.

SITA has been at the forefront of border technology for more than 25 years, helping countries enhance their security and processing billions of travelers who transit, enter, and exit their borders every year. What’s really cool about the area I work in is to be able to get to grips with AI and machine learning and blend these technologies with the gadgets everyone’s already familiar with (apps, smartphones, and tablets) to make border management smoother for everyone in the loop – passengers, governments, airports, and airlines.

Can you tell us about SITA MTA and what it offers to travelers?

For governments, and other border agencies that implement this solution, SITA MTA is a mobile app that provides a snappy way for travelers to apply for permission to travel to a country, including electronic visas (eVisa) or electronic travel authorities (ETA). This app seamlessly integrates digital data capture, identity enrollment, and automated risk assessment, available round-the-clock for maximum convenience.

Let’s say you’re taking a trip abroad. With SITA MTA, you can apply for and purchase your eVisa or ETA at home using your smartphone – without the hassle of having to go to an embassy or visa application center. No more nerve-wracking interviews, drowning in a sea of forms, having to do ID procedures and so on. The built-in “eligibility wizard” – a kind of digital concierge – helps travelers with their visa application submission and ensures they apply for the right type of visa for each country – choosing the wrong one is more common than you might think and can be costly for both travelers and governments alike.

With SITA MTA all it takes is a few taps on the app and you’re pre-cleared to go. It’s a game changer, right at your fingertips, making journeys frictionless.

Moreover, SITA MTA supports popular payment methods including credit cards and smartphone payment systems, so paying for your eVisa or ETA is as convenient as applying.

How does it benefit governments and border control authorities?

Authorities are able to make more informed decisions to operate more efficiently and securely because SITA MTA enables them to collect information in advance of travel. So, authorities can pre-clear low-risk travelers which means governments can speed up the processing of travelers at the border– while denying

travel to high-risk individuals.

The innovative tech powering MTA is SITA's eVisa/ETA system. This sophisticated and adaptable adjudication system, offers seamless integration with watchlists for automated risk assessment, facilitates collaboration across multiple agencies, enabling both manual and automated approvals, and equipping embassy workstations for efficient processing. This allows authorities to easily spot potential issues.

In short, MTA is a compelling example of the benefits of electronic travel authorizations with greater convenience of mobile for travelers – and it’s already helping governments cope with the ever-growing throughput of passengers across national borders.

How robust and secure is SITA MTA and how does it work?

SITA MTA adheres to industry-leading guidelines including ICAO’s Best Practices for Digital Travel Authorization. It employs robust encryption protocols, biometric verification, and advanced fraud detection to ensure the highest level of security for travelers' data. The app’s multi-layered approach ensures that data is securely and reliably authenticated, significantly reducing the chances for identity fraud.

The application facilitates identity enrollment and simplified ID scanning by extracting data from a passport's information page and cross-referencing it with the details on the passport's embedded chip. Additionally, it captures a real-time image of the passport bearer through a selfie, a process authenticated by "liveness detection" technology. This image is then compared to the genuine document owner's likeness for verification.

MTA’s built-in database of supported travel documents from all around the world enables the app to compare whatever document it scans with known official formats to ensure accurate validation and authentication. This aids recognition of the data for verification purposes, and for travelers this really speeds things up when scanning their documents, regardless of which country issued them.

Of course, all data is encrypted, and conforms with GDPR – practices which are ingrained into SITA’s approach to handling personal data.

Can you share a real-world example of the impact of SITA MTA on a country's travel authorization program?

A prominent APAC customer of SITA successfully implemented SITA MTA for their ETA program and transitioned to a mobile-only process in 2021, now processing millions of ETAs every year. Their feedback has been extremely positive. Among the many benefits of deploying the solution is it has enabled them to achieve a more precise risk assessment through biometric enrollment and enhanced data quality resulting from the document scanning process.

Every government has different requirements; therefore, MTA accommodates many adaptations, from complex visas to simple travel authorizations, so that differing requirements across the globe can be handled using a single mobile platform.

As we wrap up, can you provide some final thoughts on the worldwide adoption of travel technology?

It is great to see the world embracing tech to simplify travel. SITA MTA's impact shows the shift towards seamless experiences. Seeing governments share our vision for digital travel is very encouraging. The excitement grows as MTA evolves with Digital Travel Credentials (DTCs). With DTCs, travelers will be able to fulfill requirements before arrival by consenting to share their relevant data collected by the app with multiple entities across journeys, including governments, hotels and car rental. All of this adds up to significantly improve security, convenience, and efficiency for travelers worldwide.