Plans to Remove Need to Show Passports to Enter UK Unveiled

Plans for frictionless travel will mean passengers arriving in the UK will not need to present their passports at the border, according to reports.

Publish Time: 2024-01-02 17:14:52
Source: Travel Weekly

Plans for frictionless travel will mean passengers arriving in the UK will not need to present their passports at the border, according to reports.

New e-gates capable of allowing arrivals into the country using only advanced facial recognition will be installed at airports. 

Phil Douglas, director-general of Border Force, told The Times that the aim was to create an "intelligent border" that used "much more frictionless facial recognition than we currently do".

The plans have been designed to bring Britain's border up to a 'gold standard' that has been developed overseas. 

Dubai allows facial recognition for 50 nationalities, while Douglas said he had been "really impressed" by the use of next-generation e-gates on a recent trip to Australia.

Trials of the new technology are expected to begin at airports this year before the launch of a full procurement process for new gates.

There are more than 270 e-gates in place at 15 air and rail terminals in the UK that will all need replacing with the new technology, which will be more secure and also process arrivals faster.

The UK is already starting to introduce electronic travel authorisation (ETA) for foreign arrivals who do not need a visa. Passengers are required to download an app, answer a set of questions, scan their passport and provide a photograph. Only those granted the ETA can board flights to Britain.

The scheme, costing £10 per passenger, is already in force for Qataris and will extend to nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in February. The Home Office intends the ETA to be implemented for all visitors to the UK who do not need a visa for short stays, including European nationals.

Biometric details of British and Irish travellers are already held after being obtained in the passport application process.

Douglas was reported as saying: "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."

He was also said to have told industry leaders that he expects the use of legacy passport desks to largely "fall away" in the next two to three years because of the new technology and the ability to "target" people of interest to the authorities.

The EU is also in the process of toughening its border measures in the face of a heightened risk from terrorism. It will introduce its long-awaited entry/exit system (EES) in October, having delayed the introduction until after the Paris Olympics in the summer.

Under the scheme, which will apply to all non-EU passport holders, finger and picture biometrics will be captured on a passenger's first visit to the bloc after the launch, then one of each will be verified on each subsequent entry.

Brussels is also preparing to bring in a new visa-waiver scheme in 2025, which will work in a similar way to the UK ETA.