You Can Soon Travel to the UK Without a Passport: Here’s How It Works

The UK’s Border Force Agency is exploring the introduction of facial recognition systems at airports. This initiative aims to eliminate the necessity of carrying a passport when traveling to the United Kingdom.

Phil Douglas, the Agency’s Director General, was inspired by his travels in Australia and Dubai. He proposed a similar scheme that could be carried out in the UK.

In discussing the matter, Douglas informed the Times, saying, “I applied for an electronic travel authorization beforehand and utilized my smartphone to scan the chip in my passport. This transmitted my image from the chip to the Australian authorities. Upon arrival in Australia, I didn’t need to retrieve my passport; it’s a fascinating concept.”

How the face recognition system will work?

  • The Border Force aims to test passport-free travel at UK airports in 2024.
  • The proposal involves upgrading the existing eGates system to recognise passengers through facial recognition. It removes the necessity of physically showing a passport.
  • A successful trial will lead to a nationwide procurement process for the updated hardware. The current eGates system utilises facial recognition by comparing faces with passport data, while the enhanced version will depend on centralised data for improved efficiency.

Douglas added that the system would help the government obtain more information about people entering its borders, like whether or not they followed immigration laws. “We will investigate whether they have broken any immigration laws, look up their prior visits to the UK, and determine whether our security systems have a record of them.

Consequently, some people might not be allowed to board,” he said, as reported by The Times. Travellers who are British or Irish already have their passports biometrically recorded by UK authorities.

Singapore and Finland also offer facial recognition systems at airports

In 2023, Singapore’s Changi Airport achieved a significant achievement by removing passports during biometric checks and implementing authentication tokens for check-in after a successful pilot. At the same time, Finland became the first European country to test digital travel documents (DTC) at Helsinki Airport in August, providing a quick and reliable border-crossing experience.

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