I have a new biometric passport (what I mean by that is that it bears the chip sign on the cover), I haven't done any fingerprint or eye scans to get it though. How do the automated gates use the passport to check identity? Do I have register somewhere first in order to use them?

This UK website suggests that they take all the information needed from the photograph. Is it really the case? And does it work in the same way in other countries?

  • 1
    I've never yet been through a UK airport where the automatic gates were actually working...
    – Benjol
    Feb 14, 2013 at 14:16
  • @Benjol, I definitely saw people going through them...
    – Grzenio
    Feb 14, 2013 at 14:36
  • 1
    In France I know you have to register, there are big signs in airports inviting people to do so. I don't know if all European countries use the same system. Feb 14, 2013 at 19:50

3 Answers 3


I went through automated border controls in Helsinki, Finland in Sep. 2012. I have a German passport including biometry data. I did not need any special registration.

The procedure is as follows: The machine scans your passport. After that, you have to step inside and look into a camera. If the machine recognizes you, you are let through. That's it.

As far as I can tell, it seems to really be the case that they only use biometry information stored alongside the photograph.

I was actually quite delighted when I went through them. Zero waiting time!

Airport details

In HEL they allow EU, EEA, Switzerland and Japan passports, see their website. There does not seem to be a registration. (More details from the Finish Border Guard)

In FRA they allow EU and Switzerland passports, though apparently you do have to register now. Source. The site also mentions they use an iris scan to identify you. In 2011 I went through automated border control here, but my experience then was the same as in Helsinki in 2012 and did not involve registration or iris scanning.

  • Did it allow any passport, or just EU passports?
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 14, 2013 at 23:31
  • Edited my answer... It seems every country handles that differently.
    – graup
    Feb 14, 2013 at 23:41
  • Thanks. I asked because there's automated passport control in NZ/Aus, but only for a limited number of countries.
    – Mark Mayo
    Feb 14, 2013 at 23:57

Yes. In NZ and Australia they have the SmartGate system. If you have the passport, you can use it.

You walk up to it, scan your passport, stand in front of a camera for 10 seconds, and press yes or no if you have something to declare. That's about it. Very simple and fast and I'm usually one of the first through to the baggage carousels.

SmartGate in New Zealand

Here's their page on how to use the SmartGate system there. I imagine it works similarly for other countries that support such methods of passport control.

  • In my experience, you either get there and the SmartGate machines are all switched off, or it scans your passport + thinks for 20 seconds then gives an error and makes you queue up for a real person anyway...
    – Gagravarr
    Feb 15, 2013 at 9:52

System's not fully reliable at Amsterdam, but being tinkered with. Last summer there was constant backup by border agents to assist and do manual checks in case of failure (about 20-30% of attempts seemed to fail in the time I was standing in line waiting to get through), as well as do spot checks to validate the machines (which at the time were brand new).
No need to "register" anywhere, afaik. At least no signs about it (the signs at the time were for all EU passports).

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