UK outlines plans to increase biometrics for immigration, travel
“By 2025, the UK border will look very different,” states the New Plan for Immigration: Legal Migration and Border Control, a policy paper released this week by the Home Office.
In her foreword, Home Secretary Priti Patel writes “We have a bold ambition for contactless travel for British citizens and our most trusted overseas partners.”
While much attention is going on illegal immigration such as the government’s struggling plan to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda, failed attempts to prevent illegal Channel crossings, and increasing use of hotels to accommodate migrants, the Secretary of State notes, “Over the next few years, we are bringing in more improvements to ensure we continue to have a world-leading border and legal migration system.”
This means increased biometrics, the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation and more technology in place at the border, according to the document. For those permitted to stay, they will be subject to biometric ‘Right to Work’ and ‘Right to Rent’ checks, already offered by Sterling and Yoti and the Post Office.
The paper considers a fully digital journey from apply to come to the UK, arrival at the border and then proving entitlement to services.
The policy paper comes among a flurry of others in the final week before Parliament rises for summer recess and political and media attention is focused on the leadership battle for the next leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore prime minister.
Applying to come – biometric eVisa
Immigration is going online. “More streamlined and seamless digital application processes, including innovative identity capture and verification, to improve the customer experience,” says the paper.
Applications are to be mainly online and require face biometrics captured by a smartphone to verify their identities. The idea is that this will allow easier access for both the applicant and Home Office to keep track of an application and profile afterwards.
Digital capture of fingerprints means easier reuse of the biometrics and fewer people need to attend Visa Application Centres (VACs). This has already been the case for Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) who have been able to enroll their biometrics. The approach was also used for processing six million applications for the EU Settlement Scheme, with iProov biometrics.
The physical credentials of Biometric Residence Permits/Cards (BPR, BPC) will be phased out by December 2024.
Travelling to the UK – ETA with ETA of January 2023
Britain is following the likes of the U.S. with its ESTA and New Zealand with its NZeTA and at some point the European Union with its ETIAS. The UK Electronic Travel Authorisation requires those who need it to register their biographic and biometric and contact details in advance of travelling to the UK.
As with the other schemes, it is not a visa, but authorization to board a carrier to travel to the UK. The Advance Passenger Information system will be updated to incorporate the ETA: “This will help carriers discharge their statutory obligations under the UK ‘carriers’ liability’ scheme, to ensure passengers are properly documented for travel to the UK without the need to check additional immigration documents.”
The ETA will launch in private beta at the beginning of 2023, then open up to Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia in Q2 and the rest of the world later in the year.
Travel in general is set to become increasingly automated with plans for more biometric eGates, trialing reducing the age threshold from 12 to 10 years of age and working with ports for innovative solutions and smart arrivals halls.