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UK Border Agency: Passports

Volume 496: debated on Monday 20 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the average time taken by the UK Border Agency and its predecessors to check a passport at each (a) airport and (b) port in each of the last 10 years. (285793)

The time taken to check a passport at each port is not routinely recorded.

All new passports issued within the EU and in many countries across the world are now chip enabled and current policy is to scan 100 per cent. of passports at border control. The embedded chips from different countries have different reading rates, varying from three to 15 seconds depending on the detail of information stored on the chip.

Thereafter, the further checks made by border force officers will depend on a range of other factors as the passenger presents themselves at the desk, including eligibility for entry to the UK, prior concerns as flagged by e-borders, suspicious behaviour or unusual circumstances and alerts from other law enforcement agencies.

New automated iris recognition gate arrangements, now rolling out to a further eight arrivals halls over the next two months will further reduce queuing and speed the passenger flow.

Alongside our Automated Clearance System trials, UKBA are already facilitating the journey of other legitimate passengers through our Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS). IRIS combines speed and maximum security to let positively vetted passengers travel faster. The scheme was launched in January 2006 and is available at 10 airport terminals throughout the UK.