New biometric border checks: French app delays and photo issues

Smartphone EES system unlikely to be able to collect biometric data

The French EES app is in development but cannot register facial images yet
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A smartphone app being developed to help cut queues when the EU's new border checks come in this autumn will not be ready for travel to France until months after the system’s launch, an airline industry executive told The Connexion.

The EU’s new ‘European Entry/Exit System’ digital border checks are scheduled to finally start in autumn 2024 after years of delays

The checks will collect the details of non-EU visitors’ dates of entry and exit to and from the Schengen area, in addition to personal information and biometric details, such as fingerprints and a facial scan. 

Read more: EES border checks: why your fingerprints may be taken twice

To avoid long queues, it is planned that passengers will be requested to register passport details and answer questions about their trip using self-service kiosks in airports, ports and the international train station, St Pancras in London, where French checks take place on UK soil.

It is also hoped that a smartphone app, still being developed and tested by the EU, will allow passengers to preregister certain details in order to speed up the process.

In theory, this app should allow passengers to avoid queuing to use the biometric kiosks, or at least speed up their time there as some information will already be in the system.

Individual EU states must decide whether or not to adopt it, and will be able to adapt the basic app for their needs. 

Read more: Biometric border checks: what questions will be asked to enter France?

Airline industry leaders have, however, raised fears that the kiosks could be slow to use due to unfamiliarity with the technology, limited numbers and potentially insufficient staff to help confused travellers.

Indeed, concerns about the danger of greatly increased waiting times have emerged from many quarters on both sides of the Channel, with French Transport Minister Patrice Vergriete adding his voice recently. 

“I fear problems,” he told BFMTV. “We are aware of the risk in terms of passenger fluidity. It is a challenge and we must not get this wrong.”

Read more: New biometric border checks: French transport minister ‘worried’ 

French app ‘cannot register faces yet’

The French authorities were slow to commit to the use of an EES app, however Union des Aéroports Français general delegate Nicolas Pauli­ssen said Interior Ministry officials have confirmed to UAF they want to use the app. “They favour anything that will help fluidity, while maintaining rigorous checks,” he said.

However, despite preparations advancing, many in the industry doubt whether it will suffice.

“According to our intel the app is way behind,” an airline industry executive told The Connexion. “At national level in France for example, it is expected it will not be ready until months after the EES launch.”

It looks unlikely to be capable of collecting a facial image, which is one of the points they are pushing to clarify, he added.

EU app in early testing in Sweden

A pilot version of the EU’s Quick Border app is being tested by Swedish Border Police and Frontex (the European border security agency) at Stockholm Arlanda Airport in Sweden, for non-EU nationals arriving via SAS, Thai and Emirates airlines.

The limited, opt-in test, which requires passengers to pre-register on the app will run until June 28.