How govt eased travels with e-passport at Entebbe Airport

February 19 2024

What you need to know:

  • The system was specifically designed for Ugandan citizens, according to government.

In an effort to increase efficiency and security, the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration control (DCIC) has announced that all Ugandans arriving from abroad have the option to utilize the self-clearance gates at Entebbe International Airport.

The new e-gates at the airport will speed up passport control by allowing passengers to scan their own passports. It uses facial recognition to verify identity and captures the travelers’ images.

Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson Simon Mundeyi Wednesday told Monitor that people flying into Uganda will be required to provide fingerprints and undergo facial scanning for authentication and verification of the data on the passport chip. “We encouraged Ugandans to adopt this technology since it’s efficient, saves time and minimizes errors. The e-gate machines at the airport have advanced technology which is tailored specifically to expedite the clearance process,” Mundeyi observed.

“We are many stations at the airport and they are only for Ugandans arriving back home with the new electronic passports which contain a chip, which is readable by the machines,” he added.

But Mundeyi expressed concern that the gates are underutilized as Ugandans prefer interacting with people rather than machines even as machines are available at multiple points, but visibly left unused as people queue at immigration officer points.

“It’s essential to emphasize that this system was specifically designed for Ugandan citizens,” he said.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson, Mr Simon Peter Mundeyi, displays the new electronic passports (left) and the ones phased out (right), at the ministry’s headquarters in Kampala on June 26, 2023. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA. 

Last year, government announced the upgrade of paper-based e-passport to polycarbonate e-passports designed with strong anti-fraud features, making them suitable for use at the new electronic gates at the airport for self-clearance, automated boarding pass issuance, and quick passenger processing around the world.

According to immigration, as per last week, they had issued out only 1,346,560 passports -both paper based and polycarbonate– from the time they phased out EA passports in 2018, noting that over 43 million Ugandans don’t have passports.

Despite significant government investment in passport technology, Mundeyi said the anticipated surge has not yielded.

“Many Ugandans only apply for passports when they have a specific reason, such as travel or employment abroad,” he told Monitor.

“As the passport office, we would feel glad to have many Ugandans apply for passports. Therefore, we put in place a new system because we anticipated 3,000 passport applications per day but to our surprise, the number has reduced to less than 1,000 applicants per day,” he said.

According to Internal Affairs ministry, express passport applications are now disposed of in two days with applicants receiving their passports while for ordinary applicants get their passports in 10 working days.

“If you apply for an express passport, you will be given an appointment in the next 30 minutes. I therefore call upon Ugandans to desist from using brokers to apply for passports because there is no reason to do this when the system is as efficient as it can be,” Mundeyi said.

How the e-gate works

1. Touch the screen

2. ⁠ Place your passport and scan it and hold it until the machine tells you to remove the passport

3. You identify if the scanned passport and the person in the system as identified is yourself by touching yes

4. ⁠ You select the flight used and the element of returning citizen

5. You proceed to look into the camera which is above the screen so that the system can match your facial features with the record in the ABC

6. ⁠ Finally, it will issue you a ticket that you will proceeded to use at the e-gates. The gates open by scanning the barcode on the ticket and looking straight into the camera for face capture.

Adopted from: The Daily Monitor Wednesday February 14, 2024

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