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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.