UK plans to introduce passport-free travel at its airports

London: The United Kingdom’s Border Force Agency is planning to make passing through British airports completely passport-free, replacing the requirement to present a passport with facial recognition.

The move has been proposed by the Agency’s Director General Phil Douglas, after he experienced travelling to Australia and Dubai without the need to present a passport, VisaGuide.World reports.

I had to apply for an electronic travel authorization 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.

Phil Douglas, the Director General of Border Force, told the Times

The Border Force plans to launch trials at the British airports for passport-free travel in 2024, by upgrading the current eGates system, in order to identify passengers arriving in the UK, by them simply looking into a camera, without the need to present their passports.

If the same turn out successful, a procurement process for the hardware needed to introduce the system across the country will follow.

The way eGates network work now, they rely on facial recognition, by checking the passengers’ faces against data encrypted on the passport. In the future, the upgraded eGates would rely on centralized data.

According to Douglas, through such a system, the UK would be able to collect more information about the people showing up at its borders, including their compliance with immigration laws.

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.

Phil Douglas, the Director General of Border Force, told the Times

The Times has reported that the UK authorities have already been registering biometric details obtained from the passports of British and Irish travelers.

The Changi Airport in Singapore has become the first international hub to stop using passports at biometric checks in 2023. Following the successful pilot, the airport will now implement passport-free travel, enabling passengers to go through the check-in process by using an authentication token only.

Whereas, in August this year, Finland became the first European country to test digital travel documents (DTC) at the Helsinki airport. The DTC is a digital version of a physical passport and is equally reliable, enabling passport holders to have a smooth and fast border crossing.