The introduction of biometric screening at the United Kingdom border is expected to significantly increase wait times for travelers, according to a report from France’s public finance watchdog. As part of the upcoming biometric Entry/Exit System for Europe’s Schengen Area, which includes France, new rules will mandate the collection of visitors’ face and fingerprint data upon their initial arrival at the border. While subsequent visits are expected to be smoother, individuals will need to re-register their biometric data after three years.
France has taken measures to prepare for the launch of these checks by ordering 544 special “data kiosks” for travelers and 250 tablets for passengers in cars on ferries. The goal is to reduce queues at ports, stations, and airports when the Entry/Exit System (EES) becomes operational. UK passengers entering from outside the Schengen area will have their data recorded, including fingerprints and photographs, which will be stored in an EU-wide database.
However, the Cour des Comptes, France’s public finance watchdog, estimated that the initial registration process will at least double the queuing time. Travelers will need to scan their passports or travel documents at a kiosk, replacing the current manual passport stamping process. The report also suggests that the additional time required for the new biometric system might encourage more travelers to opt for planes over trains.
The biometric Entry/Exit System (EES), proposed by the EU in 2015, is not expected to come into effect until after 2025, following the Paris Olympics scheduled for next year. While some travel services are adopting biometric technologies to expedite traveler processing, the implementation of biometric border checks is likely to cause delays and longer wait times at the UK-France border.
As bus and ferry services anticipate longer queues due to the implementation of biometric screening, the travel industry as a whole is exploring innovative solutions to streamline traveler processing. Eurostar, for instance, has introduced its SmartCheck biometric gates at London’s St Pancras International Station, catering exclusively to Business Premier and Carte Blanche customers. These gates have undergone successful trials since late 2021, offering a contactless pre-departure solution that eliminates the need for manual passport checks when exiting the UK. Powered by iProov’s biometric face-scanning technology, the gates can rapidly verify passenger details in under two seconds.
Eligible travelers can access the SmartCheck lanes and complete registration using the iProov app, which involves facial scanning, photo uploading, and passport chip scanning. This information is securely stored for future journeys, and registered passengers can easily link their ticket barcodes to their biometric data through the app. While currently available to premium passengers, Eurostar is considering expanding this technology to regular passengers and other stations in the future.
Source: The Telegraph
August 15, 2023 – by the FindBiometrics Editorial Team