Saudi Arabia Introduces Facial Recognition System for Immigration

The General Directorate of Passports for Saudi Arabia is expanding its use of biometrics to facilitate traveler processing and more easily monitor and control visitor arrivals and departures, local daily reports.

Major General Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya, Director of Jawazat, said that the agency has started using “eye-scan technology,” and is developing a facial recognition system it can use to identify travelers entering the country, as well as those who have illegally remained past the maximum length of their stay. Visits to the country were limited to three months before recent changes allowed visitors to extend their stay to six months. Facilitating easy travel is one of the ways Jawazat can support efforts to increase foreign investment in Saudi Arabia, Al-Yahya said.

“We can’t attract investors while our services are poor or we have complicated procedures,” he said. “We always review our procedures to make sure that our services meet our guests’ satisfaction.”

Jawazat takes 10 fingerprints from all people entering the country, and all of the estimated 12.2 million legal expatriate residents of Saudi Arabia except roughly 4,000 have registered their fingerprints with the Directorate, according to Al-Yahya.

According to Gloria Guevara Manzo, president, and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the implementation of biometrics technology to facilitate secure borders is the single biggest opportunity for the travel and tourism sector in 2018.