Farry deeply concerned after UK Government confirmation over facial biometrics for travel authorisation

Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said he is deeply concerned after it was confirmed by the UK Government the forthcoming Electronic Travel Authorisation application process will require facial biometrics, with fingerprint requirements to be added later. 

Brexit Stephen Farry Immigration

The authorisation will be required for all non-Irish people travelling into the UK, including Northern Ireland, who do not have the permanent right to live in the UK. While the UK Government claims there will be no border checks, the ETA is nevertheless set to be a requirement for movements between Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

The confirmation came to North Down MP Dr Farry from UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick. The Alliance Deputy Leader said the further requirement for biometrics as part of the ETA application process would add further barriers for those who must apply, and has reiterated his call for the UK Government to exempt movements on the island of Ireland from the ETA. 

“The confirmation to me from the Home Office there will be facial and fingerprint biometric requirements as part of the ETA application creates even greater burdens and complication for those applying. Indeed, the technology is not always reliable, plus the process may become a barrier for some who can’t access the IT or get it to work,” he said. 

“The requirement for the ETA for journeys on the island of Ireland for non-Irish or non-British citizens was already a retrograde step, with impacts on many already resident in Ireland and for tourists. It would represent a needless bureaucratic hurdle for those undertaking a range of normal activities in Northern Ireland or simply passing through, and it would place those who are unaware of the need to apply or who forget to renew in potential legal jeopardy. 

“Since Brexit, the UK Government has proudly been pursuing a reckless, anti-immigration agenda, and this ETA requirement is a policy decision that can and must be rectified. With the UK Government’s revised intention to bring forward the ETA’s implementation date to June 2023, they need to urgently recognise the island of Ireland’s unique position and legislate for an exemption for residents and tourists. 

“Discussions have been underway between the UK and Irish Governments around a means to exempt those who are normally resident in Ireland from the need for an ETA. That engagement seems to be limited to trying to identify a data-sharing option which may bring fresh challenges. It would be better to have a much more broad-based exemption for journeys on the island.”   



Answer provided to Stephen Farry from Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.



To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether UK Electronic Travel Authorisation applicants entering Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland will be required to submit biometric information upon entry into the UK. (77641)



Irish citizens will not be required to obtain an ETA.

As is currently the case, individuals arriving in the UK, including those crossing the land border into Northern Ireland, will need to continue to enter in line with the UK’s immigration framework, including the requirement to obtain an ETA when it is introduced.

The ETA scheme will apply to those visiting the UK or transiting through the UK who do not currently need a visa for short stays or do not have any other immigration status before travelling. This requirement will not apply to British or Irish citizens.

Our long-term aim is that all visitors and migrants to the UK will provide both their face and fingerprint biometrics under a single global immigration system. As part of the ETA application process, applicants will be required to submit their biometrics. At the outset, however, we will only require facial images from ETA applicants, until such time as there is a technological solution which will allow them to self-upload fingerprints of the required quality, as we will not require them to visit a visa application centre to give their fingerprints.