There are few queues more annoying than the one at the end of a day's travelling. It is even more annoying when you are queuing to enter your own country. As a result, frequent travellers have been enrolling in the free biometric Iris Recognition Immigration Scheme (IRIS) to avoid lengthy immigration queues at UK airports.
IRIS was launched in January 2006 and 18 months later more than 100,000 people have enrolled. Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "IRIS recognition barriers combine speed and maximum security to let positively vetted passengers travel faster."
Registered passengers can enter the UK without queuing to see an immigration officer at passport control. Instead, you walk up to an automated barrier, look into a camera and, once the system recognises you, continue on your way.
The process can be as quick as a few seconds, with practice, though there is a knack to positioning your head so that your eyes are in the right place for the iris reader.
IRIS, which is part of the e-Borders programme within the Border and Immigration Agency, works on the same principal as the US' stringent biometric finger printing scheme (see online news March 14).Your biometric information will be stored on a database, which corresponds with your passport and immigration status.
IRIS is currently in operation at nine airport terminals in the UK: Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4, Manchester Terminals 1 and 2, Birmingham Terminal 1, Gatwick North and Gatwick South.
To register for IRIS you must see the immigration staff in the departure area of participating airports. It takes around 10 minutes and is free. You'll need your passport and your boarding card and you may be asked about how often you travel in and out of the UK. For more information see iris.gov.uk.
Report by Felicity Cousins