UK to use biometric data as sole authentication for international travel
The United Kingdom released its 2025 Border Strategy, a five-year innovation model to improve national security and biosecurity. The changes will streamline trade and travel procedures and are designed to make the UK a global leader in border security, according to the document.
Key provisions are contactless travel based on a fully digitized border, ePassports, and biometric data as sole authentication requirement for cross-border travel. Biometric passport technology is promised to streamline the movement of UK citizens across the border and significantly reduce the risk of identity fraud.
In addition to these benefits, a fully contactless model will also add another health protection layer amid the ongoing pandemic. Such assurance, the strategy states, allows UK ports to protect customers and make the ailing travel industry more resilient to global health threats.
To achieve these goals the government will also create a technology and innovation roadmap to enable the private sector to lead border innovation. UK government agencies will partner with the private sector to create a long-term Target Operating Model (TOM) to simulate the operational transformations proposed within the strategy.
The biometric proposals of the new UK border strategy are built on a case study titled “Emerging technologies being implemented across global borders for passengers” in which unmanned biometric border technologies such as facial recognition, fingerprint, and iris scanning deployed in Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States are examined. More specifically, the study examines Australia’s border clearance traveler platform, the Vision-Box facial recognition platform of the new Seamless Flow paperless travel program trialed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, as well as on the U.S. CBP curb-to-gate biometric terminal deployed at Atlanta International Airport. The UK will also study processing times and image storage requirements which include the destruction of citizens’ images after a certain amount of time.
Other key provisions entail border IT service and data infrastructure integration into a Single Trade Window (STW) to ensure cross-departmental cooperation in the collection, assurance, and use of border data. This STW coupled with advanced analytics will allow holistic risk evaluations of traders and passengers that better secure the border. Moreover, digital-by-default border documentation will simplify trade and travel significantly.
To achieve this digitization, new border data legislation will be put into place to allow border data-sharing across entities. This will improve information sharing and expand UK data pipelines for international intelligence sharing to help curtail illegal migration. The strategy also proposes an Electronic Travel Authorization system as part of a wider universal ‘permission to travel’ requirement to create smoother journeys to the UK.