Iris recognition immigration system (IRIS)
This section describes our iris recognition immigration system (IRIS), which enables registered passengers to enter the UK quickly through automated barriers at certain airports.
IRIS makes use of the fact that the pattern of the iris in each person's eye (the coloured part of each person's eye) is unique. A registered passenger looks into a special camera at the IRIS barrier in the immigration arrival hall, and the system compares their iris pattern with others stored in a secure database. If the pattern matches the corresponding one on the database and the registration is still valid, the passenger can immediately enter the UK.
IRIS was the first biometrically enabled automated border control system installed in the UK. Technologies have a finite lifetime and this system has now been operating for nearly 7 years.
IRIS has provided significant benefits to our border operation, but we are now establishing our longer term business needs for our automated clearance systems. Whilst iris images are a secure biometric, they are not included in ePassports, which contain face (and in some instances fingerprint) data. Neither is the iris biometric widely used by UK government departments and law enforcement agencies.
We have now started the phased decommissioning of the remaining barriers. We will decommission the service at the remaining ports in order of current usage volumes, with those ports with the highest usage likely be decommissioned within 12 months.
As a result of this decommissioning, after 30 September 2012, IRIS will continue to be available for registered passengers only at Heathrow Terminal 3 and Heathrow Terminal 5.
At the same time as the phased decommissioning of IRIS, work is continuing on options for dealing with low risk frequent travellers from non-EEA countries.
We remain committed to introducing a long term replacement for IRIS that will allow specific groups of non-EEA travellers a differentiated means of passing the UK Border, and details of these will be publicised shortly.
Registration for IRIS is no longer available. All of our enrolment rooms are now closed. We will not be re-opening enrolment to IRIS, and will not be able to make changes to existing registrations.
To find out what to do if your circumstances change after you have registered, see What if my circumstances change?
If the information in these pages does not answer your question, you can contact us about IRIS.
If you are an existing IRIS user with specific questions about your enrolment, you should include a scanned copy of the biometric page of your passport to provide us with evidence of your identity, as well as your IRIS passenger ID which can be found on the registration report issued at enrolment.
Alternatives to IRIS
If you are a UK, EU or EEA national with a biometric chipped passport, you can continue to cross the UK border automatically by using our e-passport gates. For more information, see the Using e-passport gates page.
Border Force remains committed to the use of technology and automation at border control.
MORE NEWS AND UPDATES
- Calls for evidence for balance of competences reviews
- Independent Chief Inspector’s report into the establishment of the performance and compliance unit
- UK Border Agency’s transition to Home Office
- Change to family visitor appeals
- IRIS - scheme definition documentPDF 93KB opens in a new window