The record number of travelers moving around the world and the increase in international trade has unfortunately been met with decreasing public sector budgets to process this new volume. Border control agencies are grappling with this challenge: how can agencies expedite people across border faster – while enhancing security – as resources and budgets are shrinking?
If the challenge is not met, countries could encounter impacts to tourism and trade as travelers face frustrating, arduous and exhausting border control queues.
Many border control authorities publicly discuss “extending the border” through a multi-layer strategy to identify high-risk travelers, stopping them from obtaining visas or boarding airplanes or vessels en route to their physical border. This strategy typically employs risk-based analytical systems to identify non-obvious links and vetting against domestic and international national security, immigration and law enforcement sources.
This strategy is absolutely critical with proven results in identifying high-risk travelers before they travel. So, why wouldn’t the information about low-risk or repeat travelers be used to expedite more travelers?
Even with the advanced vetting and risk assessments on every traveler, border control authorities typically require a manual inspection of the travelers – especially for foreign nationals – to verify identity and determine intent of travel. In an attempt to automate some of the manual inspections, we have seen the implementation of Trusted Traveler programs, such as Privium in the Netherlands, NEXUS in Canada, Global Entry in the United States and Automated Border Control (ABC) systems in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Spain and Portugal to name a few. These programs use biometric verification technology and automated gates to process a country’s nationals, and in some cases neighboring nationals, through the physical border without a manual inspection by a border officer. They only begin to address the challenge for a small segment of the traveler volume.
Could we enhance the current solutions to meet the challenge by combining risk assessments – especially for travelers identified low risk – with the use of emerging biometric technologies?
Biometric technologies, such as iris-at-a-distance or on-the-move and facial recognition (2D and 3D), are continually emerging as the public increasingly accepts biometrics. These technologies provide the ability to collect biometrics to verify identity much earlier in process, either through a self-service process or using on-the-move technologies as travelers pass through them.
By linking the advanced risk assessments with the biometric identity verification, border control authorities will have a comprehensive view of risk and identity available even before the traveler reaches a border control officer. At a minimum, this removes many of the time consuming tasks to verify identity conducted by the officer, allowing them to focus on intent of travel. It could also direct travelers to different queues, based on their risk assessment and related identity confidence. Additional volumes of foreign nationals could then use automated processing, while reserving border officers to address higher risk travelers.