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New EES passport kiosks 'completed' at French Eurotunnel terminal

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
New EES passport kiosks 'completed' at French Eurotunnel terminal
The Channel Tunnel port of Coquelles says that its EES pre-registration site is ready. Photo: AFP

The French Eurotunnel terminal has announced the completion of the major infrastructure project to allow enhanced passport controls under the EU's new EES system - although work is still ongoing at the UK terminal.

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Getlink, the operator of the Channel Tunnel, has reported that new EES infrastructure is finished at its French terminal of Coquelles, which will allow travellers to register their biometric data while travelling.

The EU's new Entry & Exit System - an enhanced passport check for all non-EU nationals entering the EU Schengen zone - is due to come into effect later this year and will require passengers to register biometric data including fingerprints and facial scans.

EES and ETIAS: The big changes for travel in Europe

The scheme has been delayed several times and there are major worries that the extra time needed for checks will cause huge delays at busy crossing points, with the France-UK border expected to be the worst affected due to the sheer volume of traffic.

Operators including the Port of Dover and the Eurostar bosses have sounded the alarm about long delays for travellers, but the Channel Tunnel operators seem more confident, saying that infrastructure work at Coquelles (Calais) is complete while the Folkestone end is due to be completed in July. 

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The next stage is installing the biometric passport kiosks to perform the enhanced scans.

There have been calls - especially from UK travel operators worried about delays - to allow people to pre-register before travelling to their port/airport/station (possibly via an app) but at this stage it seems that pre-registration will be done on site.

Who will be using the pre-registration?

Under the new EES system, non-EU passengers who are entering or exiting the EU or Schengen zone will need to complete 'pre-registration' which includes giving their fingerprints and a facial scan, to enhance the security of passport checks.

The pre-registration will only need to be done once, with the details remembered for subsequent trips for up to three years.

A number of groups are exempt from this requirement including;

  • Citizens of an EU country, including Irish citizens - provided they are travelling on their EU passport (in the case of dual nationals)
  • Residents of an EU country - non-EU citizens who are resident of an EU country will instead need to show their residency card (eg carte de séjour or TIE) when entering the EU or Schengen zone
  • Visa holders - non-EU citizens who have a visa for an EU country will show this at the border. This includes people who have a long-stay visa for a country they are living in and people who require a visa even for short stays (eg citizens of countries including India).

The checks are required for passengers entering or leaving the EU or Schengen zone, but are not required when travelling within the Schengen zone (eg a trip between France and Italy).

The EES system will not be used in Ireland or Cyprus (because they are not in the Schengen zone).

What is the new infrastructure at Coquelles?

This is space for travellers to complete the pre-registration, including facial scans and fingerprints. As Le Shuttle is a service for car passengers, the site is designed to be used as a drive-through service.

Similar systems adapted to foot passengers are being installed at airports and at Eurostar terminals.

Once pre-registration is complete, passengers can then proceed to the passport checks as per the current system.

GetLink says: "The pre-registration area at Coquelles features a drive-through zone equipped with CCTV and covered by a roof to protect passengers and equipment from seasonal weather.

"At 7,000 square metres, it can accommodate up to 60 passenger vehicles simultaneously. Each individual vehicle bay will be equipped with two static kiosks to complete the necessary biometric checks (facial scans and fingerprints) which will be required for non-EU nationals entering the European Union.

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"To facilitate the controls conducted by the French Border Police (PAF), a specific facility has been built to give them a panoramic view of the pre-registration zone and parking bays." 

GetLink says it has spent €80 million on Coquelles and Folkestone terminal works.

When is this system coming into effect?

The start of EES has been postponed several times with the most recent delay pushed by French authorities who wanted to wait until after the Paris Olympics are over.

The EU says that the second half of 2024 is the start date - reporting in British media suggests a possible start date of October 6th, while some French airports report being told to be ready for November. The French interior ministry says that the start is envisaged "between the final part of 2024 and the beginning of 2025".

Watch this space . . .

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What's the purpose of EES?

It's basically an enhanced passport check - at present passports are checked to ensure that a person isn't a wanted criminal or or any kind of watchlist. Non-EU citizens then have their passports manually stamped when entering or leaving the EU/Schengen zone and the purpose of these stamps is to show the dates of entry and exit. These stamps are then used to calculate whether a person has 'over-stayed' in the EU.

EES combines these two systems into one automated passport check - the biometric data such as fingerprints and facial scans gives a more complete security check while the system also automatically calculates how long a person has been in the EU and whether they have over-stayed their allowed time - for non-EU visitors including Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders that is 90 days in every 180.

It doesn't change the 90-day rule, it just aims to make enforcement of it simpler and easier - and this is the reason that it doesn't apply to visa-holders or residents in the EU, since they have the right to stay for longer than 90 days. 

Is this the only big change?

No. Once EES is up and running comes ETIAS - this will require less of a structural change for ports, airports and stations but will be a big shock to some holidaymakers. Full details on that here.

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