This is the first time exit checks have been used in the UK under the new post 9/11 security environment. The old exit checks were scrapped in 1998. The new checks will be able to gather much more information thanks to the digital microchips used in today’s passports.
The Home Office has been working closely with ports and carriers, who are collecting the exit check data from their customers since 2013. This has helped design the system that was just launched.
The Minister for Security and Immigration James Brokenshire said the exit checks will provide vital information to help strengthen Britain’s borders.
“The UK already has one of the most comprehensive systems in the world for recording who travels across our borders,” he said. “Delivering on our commitment to reintroduce exit checks will make us more secure and better informed than ever.”
Exit checks will takeplace at all airports and ports in the UK. Information that is included in passports or travel documents will be collected for passengers leaving the country on scheduled commercial international air, sea and rail routes.
For the first month, all passengers will be scanned when leaving the UK but only 25 percent of these passport holders will have their details verified to ensure they are genuine. After one month, 50 percent of the data will be verified, moving to 100 percent verification by mid-June.
The data collected will provide the most comprehensive picture the UK has ever had of whether those who enter the country leave when they are supposed to. The information collected will also improve the government’s ability to identify and tighten the immigration routes and visas that are most vulnerable to abuse.
Exit checks data will help to target individuals who have overstayed their visas and are in the UK illegally. For example, new powers in the Immigration Act 2014 allow the government to remove driving licences and prevent individuals from opening bank accounts where it is known they have not left the country.
While predominantly an immigration and data tool, the checks will also improve national security by helping the police and security services track the movements of known or suspected criminals and terrorists.
Eurotunnel UK, which operates the undersea rail service between the UK and the European mainland has called for the introduction of new technology to make the process easier and faster in coming years.