Home Secretary announces plans for contactless digital border

20 Jul 2022 03:35 PM

Pilot of “contactless” digital border to launch in 2 years.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has set out plans to begin the rollout of secure “contactless” border crossings, as part of a wide-ranging announcement on the future the UK Border.

The Home Office is set to begin testing technologies that would allow some passengers to enter the UK and undergo automated border screening without going through an eGate or speaking to a Border Force officer, helping to speed up legitimate journeys to the UK.

The passengers would instead undergo pre-screening and be identified at the border using  the latest technology – ensuring the security of the border and the UK public. The Home Office aims to begin pilot testing in 2024.

The announcement forms part of the publication of the New Plan for Immigration: Migration and Border Control Strategy statement, in which the Home Secretary also announced plans to pilot extending the minimum age of eGates from 12 to 10 years old. The move would reduce journey times for British families.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

As Home Secretary I have been focused of taking back control of our immigration system through my New Plan for Immigration.

This includes ensuring we have a border that is fit for the 21st century which allows travellers to get a visa and pass through the border easily, while maintaining national security.

I am also committed to ensuring our fantastic Border Force are given access to the most up to date automation technologies so they can use their specialised skills on protecting our border from those who seek to harm the UK.

The Home Office also today published the wide-ranging Independent Review of Border Force which the Home Secretary commissioned former Australian Immigration Minister Alexander Downer to carry out in February 2022.

Recommendations include:

Mr Downer said:

Border Force is contending with exceptional challenges, including people coming to the UK illegally via small boats, immigration abuse, illegal drugs, firearms, and organised crime all while protecting our national security. Without a doubt everyone I met at Border Force, from the senior team to operation managers and frontline officers are absolutely committed to serving the UK and want the organisation to improve so they can continue being the best countering current and emerging threats.

The recommendations I have made will have a positive impact on Border Force, making it more resilient to cope with future challenges while providing them with the direction needed to create the improvements they need.

The New Plan for Immigration: Migration and Border Control Strategy sets out how the digital border will streamline travel, improve security and position the UK as a leader in the legal migration.

The publication of today’s Statement sets the overall strategy for the next three years, with a focus on improvements to the end-to-end customer journey and our vision for the future border. It builds on our existing ambition as set out in the 2025 UK Border Strategy for the UK border to be the most effective in the world.

The future border will make it harder for those who pose a threat to enter the UK and make it easier for those who contribute to our economy to have a seamless experience through our border.  Our ETA scheme will mean that it is easier for our friends to come to and contribute to the UK, but harder for those we do not want to come here. Over the next few years, the government will bring in more improvements to ensure we continue to have a world-leading border and legal migration system. These range from visible changes such as improved customer service before customers apply and invisible changes such as better targeting at the border.

Electronic Travel Authorisations will allow more international visitors to use eGates. Digital Customer Accounts will help customers applying for visas have a more streamlined process with clearer access to eVisas needed for travel.

This new, digital system will mean we will understand more about the people coming to the UK before they travel, helping to improve security as well as queue times at the border.