x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

20 seconds to get through UAE immigration, thanks to Smart Gates

The unified security system in all airports will mean an end to long queues for people with Emirates ID cards, e-Gate cards and biometric passports from 32 pre-approved visa countries.

Mohammed Karzoun, Chief Operating Officer of Emaratech at the Arabian Travel Market. Antonie Robertson / The National
Mohammed Karzoun, Chief Operating Officer of Emaratech at the Arabian Travel Market. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Passengers arriving at airports across the country will be able to pass through immigration in as little as 20 seconds after a new system starts up.

The unified security system, to be in all airports by 2015, will mean an end to long queues for people with biometric passports from 32 pre-approved visa countries, and UAE and GCC citizens.

It will mean criminal records, outstanding fines and immigration details registered in any emirate will be accessible at the touch of a button.

Emirates ID cards and existing e-Gate cards will be compatible with the system.

Three passengers will be able to be processed each minute using the new system and "Smart Gates" - a vast improvement on the current average wait of about an hour.

Developed by Emaratech, 14 of the Smart Gates are already in use at Dubai International Airport's Terminal Three, with 14 more to be installed by next month.

The system upgrade is also being carried out by Emaratech, which will re-engineer the current immigration systems.

"There are two immigration check systems - one in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai - with a gateway between them, and that carries a lot of problems," said Mohammed Karzoun, chief operating officer of Emaratech.

"We have been tasked with unifying the systems so that all the relevant information can be present from all over the country for the immigration officers.

"We have started with the new system in Dubai and by 2015, all emirates will be fully operational."

Smart Gates are the second-generation "electronic gates" to be used in the UAE after e-Gate, which required travellers to use a card to scan through immigration.

The new system will mean travellers only need to scan through the Smart Gate with their passport, Emirates ID or e-Gate card.

"Visitors to the country from the 32 pre-approved visa countries, residents and GCC citizens can use this technology without any pre-requirements, except an electronic passport," Mr Karzoun said.

The introduction of the system will also not result in any immigration job losses.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs had previously announced plans for Smart Gates to be installed in all Dubai International terminals by next year, when it is expected to handle 75 million passengers annually.

The airport is expected to receive 98 million passengers a year by 2020.

The technology is one of the first to use three biometrics - fingerprints, iris and facial recognition - and requires travellers to register before being able to use the system from there on.

Maj Gen Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, the director general of Abu Dhabi Police Central Operations and an Emirates ID Authority board member, said the first generation of the system had been a success.

He said it had prevented the entry of more than 20,476 deportees and ex-convicts trying to re-enter the UAE through different entry points last year.

Maj Gen Al Raisi added that, before then, iris-scan technology prevented entry to the UAE of 347,019 deportees since it was introduced in September 2003.

Sunil Gulia, technical manager at Emaratech, said the new system already had almost 70,000 passengers registering since it was introduced in Dubai's Terminal Three at the start of this year.

"We want to improve the performance and so there is a lot of monitoring going on right now," said Mr Gulia.

"Once it is stable, we will think of implementing [Smart Gates] in the other terminals as well."

amustafa@thenational.ae