Ubisoft have launched the Public Test Server (PTS) for The Division, which will be running the currently unreleased update 1.4. The PTS is a separate client download through Uplay (or Steam), and allows access to the current work-in-progress version of the game.
The development team at Massive will use the PTS to test out tweaks and changes, and gather feedback from players. As it’s a test server, Ubisoft want people to be aware that “You will face issues, bugs, and crashes” and “You may also lose items and progress”. Nothing on The Division’s PTS is a ‘final version’.
It won’t be necessary to create new characters for the PTS, though Massive do say that in some circumstances they will request people make new characters for testing purposes. Generally though, “your characters from the live game will be transferred to the PTS”. Progress in the PTS will not transfer to the live game.
Further information about The Division’s PTS can be found in this FAQ.