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Technical issues hit EU biometric border plan, potentially delaying 2022 launch

Technical issues hit EU biometric border plan, potentially delaying 2022 launch

The EU’s updated biometric border control system, Entry/Exit System (EES), is suffering massive technical and organizational problems, and looks to be due for completion after summer 2022, missing the provisional May 2022 deadline due to semiconductor shortages, according to a “confidential letter” published by Statewatch.

The Entry/Exit System (EES) will be an automated IT system using biometric components, for registering travelers from third-countries, visa holders and visa-exempt travelers. This aims to help third-country nationals to travel more easily while also identifying more overstayers as well as cases of document and identity fraud.

Americans, Britons, Montenegrins and Georgians are just some of those who will be affected. Though currently permitted to travel visa-free to the 26 Schengen Area countries in Europe, they will soon need to apply for a travel authorization to enter the area.

Approximately 1.4 billion travelers from more than 60 countries are expected to be affected by the eventual implementation of the EES, run by the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

The project requires complex overall interoperability and local legal changes to allow usage such as checking passengers crossing borders and to authorize law enforcement to check identities biometrically in certain circumstances.

In a letter to EU ministers this month, the chair of EU-Lisa’s management board explained that the recent shortage of semiconductor chips globally has resulted in delays to national implementations of the EES systems. EU-Lisa’s contract partner has been blamed for some of the delays, along with global supply chain shortages for necessary hardware.

The tests of the system’s interoperability are a major part of the delay, according to a second document; the renewed Schengen Information System (SIS) (for security and border management) has seen setbacks and will be part of the network to which the EES will connect. To function properly, the EES needs to connect to the Visa Information System (VIS) as well as a common database for the comparison of biometric features.

This Shared Biometrics Matching System (SBMS) should meet the identification requirements of the EES and is intended as a higher-level store for identity data. The aim of the project is to convert the SIS to biometrics via a search portal from 2023 onwards, according to the letter.

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