Angela Needham
By Angela Needham
Finance Writer
Updated 24 June 2024
|Read time: 4 mins

Biometric passports

If you're planning a holiday abroad, you might be required to travel with a biometric passport. Here’s everything you need to know about what they are, how they work, and how to apply for one.

What is a biometric passport?

Biometric passports are becoming increasingly common for international travel.  A biometric passport (also known as an ePassport or digital passport) is a type of passport with an embedded microchip that contains the passport holder's personal information.

These microchips contain information called biometric data, which is usually images of your fingerprints and facial features. This data is used to verify the passport holder's identity.

If you’ve renewed or applied for a British passport since 2010, it’s likely the passport is already biometric. You’ll know you have one if your passport cover has an image of a gold camera at the bottom. 

 

What are the benefits of a biometric passport?

Having a biometric passport can add an extra layer of security. They were created with the intention of preventing fraud, identity theft, and terrorism. The embedded microchips in biometric passports are used to properly identify you. Having a microchip would make it more difficult for someone to forge or alter.

Another benefit of a biometric passport is convenience. Many countries now have ePassport gates designed to read the embedded microchips and verify a passport holder's identity. This can speed up the process of going through immigration. This is especially useful if you have a connecting flight to catch, or if you just want to get home.

How to use an ePassport gate in the UK

If you arrive at airports like Heathrow, London City, Manchester and Luton, you’ll likely have the option to go through an ePassport gate, also known as an eGate.

These are automated kiosks at Passport Control that you will be required to visit after you disembark from your flight. 

Using an eGate in the UK is a quick and easy process. When you arrive at Passport Control, you’ll find a separate queue for passport holders eligible to use the eGates. At the kiosk, you’ll be asked to scan your passport to have a digital photograph taken. Follow the instructions on the screen, which will guide you through the process. Once your details have been verified, the gate will open, and you will be able to proceed through to the baggage claim. If you have any problems using the ePassport gate, an airport staff member will be on hand to assist you.

Passport holders with the following nationalities will be able to use an ePassport gate at a UK airport:

 

  • All EU countries

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • Iceland

  • Japan

  • Liechtenstein

  • New Zealand

  • Norway

  • Singapore

  • South Korea

  • Switzerland 

  • USA


Unfortunately, ePassport gates are only available to holders over the age of 12. Families travelling with young children will have to queue up at a separate passport desk and speak to an immigration agent.

Travelling to the US with a biometric passport

It's also important to note that some countries may have specific requirements for biometric passports. For example, the United States requires that all travellers with an ESTA entering the country have a biometric passport. If you don’t have a biometric passport, you will need to apply for a US visa and visit the US embassy in London. 

Travelling to the US with a UK biometric passport is relatively straightforward. Once you have arrived in the US, you will have to queue up to speak to a TSA agent at their border control. An agent will scan your fingerprints, take a digital photo, and may ask a few questions about your visit. Without a biometric passport and an ESTA, the border control process could take much longer.

 

How to apply for a biometric passport?

As mentioned earlier, if you’ve applied for or renewed your passport since 2010, you’ll likely have a biometric passport already. If not, all you need to do is apply for a new passport online or by post

You will need to pay a fee for a new passport:
 

  Online By post
Adult 16 and over,
standard passport (34-pages)
£82.50 £93
Adult 16 and over,
frequent traveller passport (50-pages)
£93.50 £104
Child under 16
standard passport (34 pages)
£53.50 £64
Child under 16
frequent traveller passport (50 pages)
£64.50 £75
Passport for people born
before 2 September 1929
Free Free

Prices correct as of 9th September 2023.

 

Please be aware that passport applications can take up to 4 weeks, so if you’re planning to travel abroad soon, make sure you have your passport and any other travel documents ready as soon as possible.

Travel money made easy

It’s always useful to have some local currency when jetting off abroad. For great rates and no commission, pop to one of the Bureau de Change in our John Lewis & Partners shops around the UK, or order online for click-and-collect or home delivery.

When you return from your holiday, you can always sell your leftover travel money back to us at any of our Bureau de Change locations.

Exchange rates in our shops may vary from those offered online.

 

This article is for promotional or information purposes only. You must not rely on it as advice. Please contact a financial adviser if you need advice before you buy a financial product or service.

Recommended guides

Most people from the UK will need to have an ESTA to travel to America. Here’s how to apply for one

Losing your passport is every traveller’s nightmare. Here’s how to report, cancel, and replace your lost passport.

 Here's what you need to know about how to take a UK passport photo and it's key requirements.

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