Biometric border control - home office bio-corridor news - face verification vs recognition at borders

UK Biometric Border Control Policy Unveiled – How Can Face Verification Streamline Border Control and Immigration?

10 August 2022

You’ve just come off a flight, landing back home after a vacation or business trip. Normally, you’d approach border control with trepidation, dreading the sight of lengthy lines that could delay the last leg of your journey.

But this time is different. This time, you’ve already chosen to verify yourself in advance using your mobile device or computer, linking your biometric – your face – to your identity. At border control, you choose to walk through a biometric corridor, where the technology verifies you as you walk through. 

The good news for many citizens worldwide is that this is becoming a reality. In the UK, for example, contactless border control is a central part of the government’s new policy paper, New Plan for Immigration: Legal Migration and Border Control. In the document, there’s an emphasis on enhancing the user experience at borders through digital processes – namely using biometric verification and authentication to make exiting and entering the UK as simple as possible.

The UK has a record of biometric-enabled travel and border control programs – including the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) and the Eurostar SmartCheck initiative. iProov supported both schemes. Governments across the globe trust our biometric technology because it offers the highest levels of security while enabling swift, user-friendly and inclusive experiences. 

It’s important to note that iProov technology delivers face verification and not face recognition for surveillance – the two are different, as you can see here. 

So, what exactly does the new policy paper set out and how will the UK border experience change by 2025? How could the biometric technology behind this actually work? And how can this model be applied to other countries’ borders around the world? In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know.

What does the new UK immigration and border policy paper say?

The UK Home Office has released a policy paper that sets out the how and why for “slicker and more efficient” border management through the use of biometric eGates. The goal is to have entirely contactless travel for “British citizens and our most trusted overseas partners”, where people will be able to use biometric technology to skip lines and physical document checks when they return home or immigrate from abroad. 

Ultimately, this policy paper explains how the government will leverage technology to transform the border system – and biometrics are at the forefront of this change. 

What is an eGate, bio-corridor, or biometric/contactless corridor?

The Home Office document states that they seek to expand the use of eGates. They will be present at airports, stations, and ports, enabling people arriving into the country to choose to use a biometric scan. This will be instead of joining a line and waiting to proceed through a gate or a human checkpoint where a passport or ID document has to be inserted and checked against the physical face of the traveler. This type of eGate is sometimes referred to as a “biometric corridor”, “contactless corridor”, or “bio-corridor”.

A biometric corridor refers to a location at an airport (or other border site) where people are processed using biometric technology rather than manual processes. The unique proposition of a biometric corridor is that people can walk straight through without needing to show a document – it largely automates the border control user journey.

How can biometrics enable smoother border control?

So, how will the UK enable a full digital border experience? And more generally, what does a biometric-enabled border actually look like? 

In order to remove paper from the process, technology is needed to verify identity before arrival and then authenticate people once they reach the border point – whether that be an airport, port, or train station. Biometrics are the modern solution to proving identity in a way that does not inconvenience users and is usable by the widest section of the population as possible.

This is what a biometric-enabled border might look like for the end user:

  1. Andy wants to work in the UK. He applies for and receives his working visa. Instead of just setting off for the airport and following the process when he arrives at London Heathrow, he decides to save time with the biometric corridor. Before he leaves home, he uses his smartphone to complete remote identity verification using his passport and a brief facial scan using iProov.
  2. iProov’s Genuine Presence Assurance® technology ensures that the person asserting Andy’s identity during this process is indeed Andy and that he is really there in real time.
  3. Once Andy has completed this process and his credentials are verified, he has successfully created a biometric template. This biometric template can then be used to authenticate Andy at the border entry point. As he passes through the biometric corridor (or eGate), his face is associated with his immigration status and details. This means no manual intervention is necessary and Andy can be on his way to start his new job

The case for biometric-enabled border control is that it’s digital by default. With the introduction of eVisas in the UK, there will be little need for people to go to Visa Application Centres (VACs) to enroll their biometrics in-person or collect a physical visa. With face biometrics, everything can be done from home. This would not be possible without secure, easy to use biometric technology. 

Why is biometric face verification necessary for contactless border control?

So why use the face to verify user identity at border points? The answer is that each person’s face is unique, and the face is the credential that is used on most government-issued ID documents (such as passports and driving licenses). 

This means that a person’s face can be verified against a trusted identity document, which acts as a source of truth to match the person against and ensures the identifiers associated with that person are endorsed by a legal authority. Other biometric characters, such as fingerprints, are not available on the vast majority of identity documents. 

Online face verification technology therefore enables border systems to become contactless and more efficient. A biometric-enabled border experience means that people can choose an experience that is non-intrusive and hassle-free as they enter or exit a border. iProov biometric technology is designed to be passive, so the user does not have to do anything when enrolling remotely other than look at their device’s camera.

Let’s summarise some of the advantages of using iProov face biometric verification at the border:

  • Automated and digital-first processes: Instead of asking people to show the same documents multiple times when exiting or entering a border, the process can be automated using face biometric technology. The face becomes the trusted pass.
  • Reduces reliance on people and reduces labor cost: When technology takes care of the hard work, it frees up existing labor for other roles at the border. This is particularly relevant as the the travel industry grapples with understaffed airports, borders, and airport chaos.
  • Convenience and reduced congestion: Remote verification and subsequent authentication enables a contactless border experience rather than a manual and inefficient one — this can remove significant congestion from the concourse. This leads to improved journey management and reduced queues.

Why choose iProov to support and implement contactless corridors?

  • Inclusivity: iProov’s solution does not require reading or comprehending complex instructions — you simply look at your device’s user-facing camera. This means people at the border points can verify themselves easily, improving accessibility for those with various cognitive abilities. iProov also offers a kiosk solution that would allow passengers without access to smartphones to walk through the enrollment process at a kiosk (this can be done with or without an agent present).
  • Convenience: If it isn’t easy to use, people won’t use it. iProov’s Genuine Presence Assurance maximizes convenience: the user looks at their device, the device looks back, and the process is completed in a matter of seconds.
  • Security: iProov cloud-based technology verifies that each person is the right person, a real person, and that they are authenticating right now – thwarting imposters and fraudsters from spoofing the remote check-in system. iProov enables remote verification from anywhere and does not rely on the device for security, removing the risk of a compromised device or camera.
  • Accessibility: iProov is device agnostic, offering omni-channel verification. There’s no need for special hardware, and the technology is completely passive and intuitive. There is also the added benefit of kiosk-enabled authentication – if the traveler’s phone is dead, they can still be processed at border control.
  • Proven experience: With large-scale solution deployments around the world, iProov can offer the necessary expertise, technology, and knowledge to support critical border implementations.
  • High success rates: iProov delivers >98% typical pass rate and 1.1 average number of attempts based on in-production results.

Case study: contactless travel with Eurostar

The Home Office’s policy paper mentions that this scheme will be a “more advanced version of what is employed at present in Eurostar terminals in Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels”. 

This is referring to the Eurostar SmartCheck trials. In London St Pancras, iProov technology enables a contactless fast-track service allowing Eurostar passengers to complete secure ticket verification and UK exit check on their mobile devices prior to travel. 

You can read more about iProov’s work with Eurostar here:

Case study: EU Settlement Scheme

iProov technology revolutionized the process of applying online for visas, permits, and other immigration documentation. Governments can now securely verify the genuine presence of remote applicants within seconds to speed up and automate administration.

We supported the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), where more than 3.1 million EU Settlement Status applications were successfully concluded. There were peaks of 25,000-30,000 applications per day.

Read more about how iProov Helped Deliver the World’s Most Successful Remote Identity Verification Immigration Program here.

Case study: Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security is using iProov Genuine Presence Assurance to find ways to streamline cross-border travel at ports of entry while maintaining a high degree of confidence of traveler identity and status. Read more here.

You can also read more about how iProov is supporting travel more generally here:

Biometrics and contactless corridors: a summary

  • The UK Government has set out its new vision for immigration, legal migration, and border control in a Policy Paper titled “New Plan for Immigration: Legal Migration and Border Control”.
  • Essentially, the plan is all around “digital by default” border control. With the help of biometric technology – termed “biometric corridors” or “eGates” – people will be able to choose to navigate borders without manual document checks. It’s all paperless.
  • Biometric face verification and authentication makes this possible – it provides the security, usability and inclusivity that other options cannot deliver.
  • iProov has a proven track record of delivering secure, scalable border management solutions to governments, including the EU Settlement Scheme, the Eurostar SmartCheck initiative, and the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • This model for contactless border control, migration, and immigration using iProov biometric technology can be applied to borders all around the world. Using iProov for border control schemes can deliver the maximum success rates, convenience, inclusivity, and optimal experience for end users. 

Talk to iProov about how we can help with your border management – the first step is booking a demo here. Alternatively, find out more about iProov’s biometric authentication services in government and public sector here.

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