Portugal was the first country in Europe to launch a trial of the European Commission Smart Borders, a pilot program studying the Entry/Exit control procedures of Third Country Nationals into the Schengen Area through Automated and Manual Border Control Check Points at airports, land, and sea borders.
Vision-Box® delivered the solution to the Portuguese Immigration and Borders Service SEF, in collaboration with ANA/Vinci Airports.
An innovative European Commission Smart Border pilot program to enhance Third Country Nationals Entry/Exit processes into the Schengen Area went live on March 15 at Lisbon International Airport. The project is being coordinated by the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-LISA), selecting Lisbon’s International Airport as the first EU site to inaugurate the pilot program that will run until the beginning of June, in direct collaboration with SEF, who is responsible for project management at national level in liaison with eu-LISA, ANA/VINCI Airports and Vision-Box®.
The 12 EU Members States participating in the program are Portugal, Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Hungary, Greece, Italy and Romania. Each of these countries will perform tests with Third Country Nationals (TCN) passing through immigration checkpoints at various airport, land, and sea borders, experimenting with different facial, fingerprint, and iris biometric verification methods.
The main purpose of the program is to identify the best technical solutions for each specific type of border using multi-modal biometric identification and verification processes and comparing the metrics and usability of each solution through specific reporting methods. The results of the pilot programs will set the foundation for a common, standardized platform used to manage European borders, namely for an Entry/Exit System (EES) and a Registered Traveler Program (RTP). By combining these initiatives, European Member States will be able to monitor traveler flow using a EU-unified system, proactively identifying irregular situations such as travelers overstaying their visits.
The first test case in Portugal consists of testing exit/departure ABC eGates by TCN visa-exempt passengers. In fact, this is an unprecedented worldwide program: the state-of-the-art Automated Border Control (ABC) eGates from Vision-Box® are now processing citizens from Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Macedonia, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States, Venezuela and Brazil. The close collaboration between eu-LISA, SEF, ANA/Vinci and Vision-Box® is crucial in evaluating the overall feasibility of the system and a key factor to validate the concept, processes and future solutions of the program.
Travelers’ impressions upon encountering Vision-Box®’s ABC eGates were extremely positive, exceeding all expectations. The first user, a Brazilian traveler flying to Sao Paulo, was quite surprised with the opportunity to utilize the Automated Border Control eGates in Lisbon. Already installed at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, the same solution, also deployed by Vision-Box®, gives travelers the benefit of avoiding long lines at manual border control checkpoints, substantially decreasing the time it takes to go through immigration.
The project also has a secondary objective in raising awareness of the mechanisms used to ensure the integrity and privacy of all captured biometric data, in compliance with the EU regulations. Vision-Box® ensures the security of all data through the cutting-edge Privacy-by-Design principle, which guarantees full confidentiality of the travelers’ data.
Lisbon International Airport is also testing two additional cases at entry points, the first comprising of an iris enrollment process to measure the capability of this modality in Europe and the second consisting of pre-registering arriving travelers using a Vision-Box® Automated Immigration Control Kiosk. The aim of this test case is the future use of automation to combine into a single family-friendly process the following set of controls: authentication of the passenger’s travel documents, verification of the validity of their Visa and pre-enrolled fingerprints against the central EU VIS system in Brussels and capture of a high-quality ISO-compliant photo for potential use at ABC eGates once exiting the Schengen Area.
At the Lisbon Smart Border pilot launch event, which brought together high-ranking officials from eu-LISA and Portugal to witness the official unveiling of the Smart-Border Program, Joao Almeida, Portuguese Internal Administration State Secretary, stated that,“This kind of projects (…) allows, on the one hand, for better information for countries to control the entry/exit of third country nationals (…), but even more importantly, it allows citizens who visit the EU to register first (…), in order to go through borders even more rapidly”.
The European Commission will analyze the findings of the eu-LISA Smart-Border Pilot Program with the expectation that biometrics and Automated Border Control will be part of a solution for a common European Border Control Strategy, shielding it from terrorism and fraud.