The biometric passport control system has been tested at the Vaalimaa border crossing point between Finland and Russia for the last three months, reports Helsingin Sanomat. So far, only Finns and EU citizens holding biometric passports can use the self-service. Biometric passport control has also been tested at Helsinki-Vantaa airport since 2008, as described in the Barents Review 2010, a publication written by the staff of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat.
In 2008, Russia started to issue biometric passports, as reported by BarentsObserver. Biometric passports contain a microchip for digital finger or retina prints in addition to a special photograph of the holder.
By the end of this year, Russian citizens holding a biometric passport will be allowed to cross into Finland at Vaalimaa by their fingerprints and scanning of their passports without manual inspection of their passports from a border official.
Vaalimaa is the busiest border crossing point between Russia and the EU with over 2 million border-crossings per annum. 80 percent of those crossing the border are Russians.
- The first impression has been that the passport scanner is OK. However, the system still needs some fine-tuning while the waiting time should also be shortened, says Timo Mäkelä, the deputy chief at the Vaalimaa border crossing station interviewed by Helsingin Sannomat.
According to the portal of the Finnish Border Guard, the automatic border checks can even make an automated entry interview. To do this, the traveller must select their preferred language and then answer the questions made on the screen by touching the correct alternative on the same screen. This completes the thorough check and the doors will open.
When arriving at the border control lanes, the traveller must first place their biometric passport in the reader, which will read and check the information contained in the document. In the next stage the device will compare the facial image obtained in real time using a camera with the facial image scanned from the passport. The lane door will open automatically once the system has performed the minimum check.
The Norwegian Barents Secretariat has suggested introducing similar self-service passport control for frequent travelers at the Norwegian-Russian border at Storskog. Read the chapter Border-Crossing Exercises (pdf).