The United Kingdom (UK) border office has proposed new immigration procedures to replace paper passports, using facial recognition and biometrics to ensure seamless and frictionless boarding into the country.
The office plans to leverage advanced technology for this “intelligent border” project by building hi-tech gates that can automatically identify people arriving in the UK without having to present a physical passport. According to them, the gates will feature a “much more frictionless facial recognition system” without going through an eGate or speaking to a Border Force officer.
The Home Office intends the procedure to be implemented for all visitors to the UK who do not need a visa for short stays, including British Nigerians and other European nationals.
The government hopes this new implementation will match standards in other countries which use facial recognition for several nationalities like Dubai airports which claim that “five seconds” is all it takes for passengers to pass through immigration procedures, thanks to their smart gates.
Phil Douglas, director-general of the UK Border Force, who proposed the plan, drew inspiration from Australia and Dubai where he expressed approbation for his seamless boarding experience.
“I had to apply for an electronic travel authorisation in advance and used my smartphone to read the chip in my passport. That sent the image of me in the chip to the Australian authorities. When I arrived in Australia, I didn’t even have to get my passport out of my bag. It is a really interesting concept,”
The UK Border Force assures that details of all travellers will be recorded to simplify the boarding process, stating that passport details of British and Irish travellers have already been obtained as part of the UK’s current application process.
“We will know a lot more information about people upfront. We will know if they’ve been in the UK before. We’ll know what their compliance with immigration laws is. And we’ll know if there’s any records of them on our security systems. So there will be some people who won’t be getting on the plane,” Douglas said.
In December last year, the UK Home Office unveiled a plan to cut net migration and restrict low-income families from bringing families as part of a larger goal to cut down on about 300 thousand migrants.
Trials for the intelligent borders are to begin in airports around the UK this year with a full implementation and hardware procurement following a success.
The UK is already rolling out electronic travel authorisation (ETA) for foreign arrivals including Nigerians jetting into the UK who do not need a visa. The scheme costs £10 per passenger.