UK immigration rushes to implement e-gates for quicker immigration checks in time for Olympics

UK Immigration is pushing to install facial recognition technology at London's Heathrow airport for the Olympics. UK Border Agency (UKBA) originally planned to install facial recognition technology in all five of its terminals in time for the Olympics but there have been several delays in getting the system up and running.

Last July, UKBA received approval to install e-gates facial recognition technology at Heathrow airport that allows registered non-EU nationals to use electronic self-service immigration controls.

However, Heathrow officials have said that the roll out is being delayed while UK immigration completes an investigation into last year's unauthorized relaxation of immigration checks.

"BAA has installed new automated immigration clearance gates at all Heathrow terminals to improve queuing times for passengers. UKBA is responsible for border security and has been working to bring these new gates online but has paused this process while it completes internal investigations," said a spokeswoman for BAA, the company that owns London Heathrow airport.

The continuing investigation into the relaxed border checks has taken up a lot of time and resources at UKBA. Therefore the agency has not had enough time to finish building their security database of travellers that have registered to use the system. The e-gate technology is designed to allow registered non-EU passengers faster entry to the UK through the use of automated self-service immigration points at certain airports. The system uses facial recognition technology to compare a person's face to the photograph recorded on the chip in their passport.

"Our responsibility is to secure the border at all times and we will ensure sufficient resources and technology are put in place to meet the extra demand during the Olympics period," said a spokesman for UKBA.

The UK has begun processing Visitor visas for the 2012 London Olympics. We advise you to apply as soon as possible so that UK immigration officials have plenty of time to process your application. You will normally then be issued with a UK visitor visa with a start date that will cover you for the whole Olympic and Paralympic Games period. Once you receive your UK visitor visa, you can then travel to the UK for the Games.

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