Biometric Passports and Self-Service Border Crossings

Added 19/04/2010

UK passport

Your passport should be at the top of your travel checklist, because without it, you can’t travel abroad.

Keep an eye on when your passport runs out and renew it well before your travel date - it can take three weeks or more for your new passport to arrive. And remember that some countries require you to have a passport that is valid for six months.If you need to renew your passport, make sure you have a suitable passport photo. The photo must be clear and it should portray you with a neutral expression, in colour and with a light, plain background behind you. You might need someone to certify the photo stating that it is a true likeness of you.

Bear in mind that if minor changes are made to your appearance, such as the growth of a beard or coloured hair, you won’t have to apply for a new passport.

All new passports will come with a chip containing the dimensions of your face and your passport details - these are known as biometric passports.

Some airports are able to read your biometric passport electronically, allowing you to complete a self-service border crossing, making the procedure at passport control more efficient. In the passport control booths, a camera takes a picture of your face and compares it to the information contained on your biometric passport.

If you are planning an extended trip abroad, and your passport becomes crammed with visas, you can apply for a new passport at the nearest embassy. It might take a while to process, so try to factor this into your travel plans, and remember to take a spare passport photo with you on your travels.