A biometric passport is a passport that is embedded with a microprocessor chip. The biometric information it contains is used to authenticate the passport holder’s identity.
Many countries have introduced biometric passports in the last 20 years which has allowed for quicker border processing.
Which countries require biometric passports?
Currently over 85 countries around the world use biometric passports, including the UK and most countries in the European Union.
Travellers from the United Kingdom to Europe are able to use their UK biometric passport to enter most countries in the European Union. Following Brexit, the UK has voted to leave the EU and thus will be required to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver from November 2023.
British passport holders must carry a biometric passport when this comes into effect as ETIAS is completely electronic.
This means that all data pertaining to the ETIAS will be contained on the biometric passport and does not need to be printed.
Which EU countries require a biometric passport?
All EU countries, with the exception of Ireland and Denmark, are required to issue biometric passports as standard to all citizens.
All biometric passports issued in the European Union contain digital imaging and fingerprint scan biometrics.
Ireland and Denmark, however, are the only countries that are not required to contain fingerprint biometrics, although this is likely to change in the near future.
What information does a biometric chip in a passport contain?
Biometric passports contain the following information that allows passengers to be identified at borders:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Additional biographical information such as birthplace
- Digital imaging (a photograph)
- Fingerprints (in most cases)
In biometric passports, all of this information is contained in an RFID chip embedded in the passport. By storing this information, it makes biometric passports far more secure than the previous ‘normal’passports.
Travelling to Europe from the UK with a biometric passport
All UK passports issued in the UK since 2010 contain biometric information. This allows travellers to use e-gates in the UK and many countries around the world, including Europe.
Until November 2023, passengers travelling to Europe with a UK electronic passport can still use it to enter the EU and avoid lengthy passport control queues by using the e-gates.
Following Brexit, UK biometric passports will be required for the ETIAS visa waiver that will allow travellers to enter the EU and Schengen Area. The ETIAS will be issued electronically and contained on the RFID chip in the passport.
How to tell whether a passport is biometric or not
Biometric passports can be identified by a small camera symbol which is printed on the passport’s cover.
This symbol is recognised internationally for all ePassports and will be displayed at electronic gates at airports around the world.
Applying for ETIAS with a biometric UK passport
With the introduction of ETIAS in November 2023, one of the advantages of having a UK biometric passport is that travellers can visit any European destination in the Schengen Area without a visa.
To have this visa-free access, UK citizens travelling to Europe must register with ETIAS. To do this, travellers will need to complete a short ETIAS form with their personal details and passport information.
This personal and passport information is automatically checked by several security databases to quickly identify individuals and ensure that they are eligible to enter Europe.
Assuming that nothing is flagged up, the ETIAS will be approved and the visa waiver will be linked to the RFID chip in the passenger’s biometric passport.
It is not possible to transfer an ETIAS visa waiver from one passport to another
As the ETIAS is linked electronically to the RFID chip, it is only valid with this particular passport.
Passengers with dual citizenship, it is essential that the passport details for the passport that allows entry to the Schengen Area are used.
Should a passport expire before the visa waiver is used, it will be necessary to complete a new ETIAS application using the new passport details.
Provided the passport does not expire, ETIAS remains valid for 3 years and can be used for multiple stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period.