UK Border Force Looks into Biometrics to Replace Passports with E-gate System

January 2, 2024

The UK Border Force proposes incorporating facial recognition technology to replace the current requirement to present documents upon arrival in the UK. The proposal for frictionless travel implies that individuals arriving in the UK won’t have to show their passports at the border.

Furthermore, the airports will install new e-gate systems incorporating facial recognition technology that will allow arrivals into the country without the need for conventional passports.

While discussing the proposed plan, Phil Douglas, the Director General at Border Force, reportedly stated, that he wants to create an “intelligent border” that will use “much more frictionless facial recognition than we currently do.”

Douglas admired e-gate systems in Australia and Dubai, stating he had been “really impressed.” He also shared his experience while traveling in Australia and explained he only had to use his smartphone to scan the passport chip, eliminating the need for a physical passport.

Benefits of Adopting Biometric Borders

The airport trials are expected to commence this year, and if successful, a hardware procurement process for nationwide implementation will follow, as reported. In the past few months, Douglas has been promoting the potential benefits of biometrics and data security to manage the UK’s borders.

In February 2023, Douglas indicated that the conventional paper passport facing a decline, despite the excitement over the blue document post-Brexit.

At the Airport Operators Association Conference in London, Douglas delivered a speech and stated, “I’d like to see a world of completely frictionless borders where you don’t need a passport. The technology already exists to support that.” “In the future, you won’t need a passport you’ll just need biometrics,” he added.

In the UK, more than 270 gates are working in at least 15 air and rail terminals, all of which need to be replaced with technology, to ensure enhanced security and fast processing of arrivals.

Moreover, the UK has initiated the implementation of an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for foreign visitors not requiring a visa. All the visitors need to do is download the app, respond to a series of questions, scan their passports, and provide a photograph. Only ETA-approved individuals will be granted boarding flights to Britain. The Home Office plans to extend the use of ETA for all non-visa-required visitors including European nationals.

Also read: International Air Transport Association Unveils GenNext Travel Documentation and Verification System to Support Contactless Travel