Technology Leads Immigration System into the 21st Century

Technological advances continue to be among the defining factors of the modern era. The technology around us grows faster, more intuitive, and more capable of performing tasks that would have seemed impossible a generation ago. Technology is such an integral part of our world economy and culture that it permeates virtually every aspect of our daily life. It stands to reason, then, that the worlds of technological innovation and immigration / international travel eventually should intersect. And a few recent developments in the sector designed to streamline the processing of visas, passports, and other travel documents may impart impactful change for international travelers.

Last month at the Paris Air Show, a biannual exhibition in France designed to showcase innovation in the aerospace industry, a system was unveiled that potentially could replace, or at least supplement, immigration officers at airports around the world. The system, developed by French electrical company Thales, can scan passports, print boarding passes, and record digital biometric information such as facial features and iris shape. The information would be stored in an airport-wide database, allowing a robot to confirm passenger information when travelers arrive at the immigration desk, thereby eliminating the need for a human immigration officer. Pascal Zenoni, a manager for Thales, explained in an interview with Agence France Presse that “you would only need one agent for every four or five machines. These systems can free up staff for the police and create more space in the airport.” Zenoni is hopeful that the systems will begin to be implemented in airports around the world within the next few years. [See Robots Could Replace Immigration Officers Under New Technology Presented in Paris, by Henry Samuel, The Telegraph, 19.Jun.2015.]

Meanwhile, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration recently acquired a new antifraud system designed to detect counterfeit travel documents. The system, known as the Verifier TD&B (Travel Document and Bearer), was paid for by the Philippines with funding from the Canadian government and will use digital biometrics to pinpoint fraudulent passports, visas, and boarding passes in airports throughout the country. The system is also capable of detecting imposters who are traveling under a false or stolen identity. Philippine officials are hopeful that the new system will counteract the rising rates of illegal immigration and human trafficking in the nation. Recent statistics estimate that nearly one million people are currently living in the Philippines illegally, and the nation is especially vulnerable to human trafficking because it is a major travel hub in the region for flights between the Philippines and Canada. Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines explained during a ceremony unveiling the new system that “it is used for secondary inspection…it will allow immigration authority control officers to detect fraudulent travel documents…the sale of these fraudulent documents unnecessarily puts people at risk with exploitation in the form of human trafficking.” The Verifier TD&B system was also touted during the ceremony as being easy to use and cost effective, since it is a standalone system that will not need to be configured with existing airport technology. [See Philippines Gets Technology to Detect Immigration Fraud, by Ryan Macasro, Rappler, 3.Jun.2015.]

Technological innovation at the dawn of the 21st century has transformed daily life for people around the globe. As advancement continues at lighting speed, virtually every avenue of human existence will be impacted. But technological innovation is poised to be especially significant in the immigration sphere, affecting how people gain entry to other nations in pursuit of new lives, following their dreams, and the goal of prosperity. New technology that continues to make the immigration process and the screening of international travelers safer, cheaper, and more efficient, hopefully, will ensure that immigrants can share their talents, ideas, and experiences with the world for generations to come.


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