Balancing border checks and traveller inconvenience is a challenging task. Fortunately, the technological advances can make it easier and efficient. And that is exactly what the government of Honk Kong Special Administrative Region is doing. On Monday, it announced the launch of the Hong Kong Smart Departure System for all visitors to Hong Kong on October 10.
In this system, visitors will have their identity verified by a facial recognition device and software. They will need to check in at the arrival clearance counters to have their photos taken. This data is then stored for further verification when departing. According to officials, this procedure will take about 20 seconds.
When the visitors need to depart, their identities will be verified automatically and they can use the self-service departure facility. This will make the process fast and convenient. It will also lessen the burden on immigration control authorities at the airports.
The visitors need to be 11 years of age or older and possess electronic travel documents to avail of this service. These visitors will be provided with landing slips to be filled out, which will have the Smart Departure logo on them. However, the documents need to comply with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organizations) stipulations. Countries or regions who wish to employ this smart departure system need not be enrolled in the Smart Departure e-channels. They may do so at their ports with their own discretion.
The immigration department will also have cameras at arrival clearance counters to take instant photographs of the visitors. The facial recognition software will then compare these photos with the original ones on their travel documents like passports.
This is the initial phase, and the government is introducing this system at the Hong Kong International System. A multi-phase rollout can be expected at other airports and entry points as and when the Hong Kong government has planned.