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Reviewed April 2024

Identity cards, passports, tickets and boarding passes… carrying and safeguarding these documents while travelling takes half the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Well thankfully, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs’ (GDRFA’s) latest innovation will be saving us from at least one of these travel essentials: the passport.

Read on this Wego article to know more about Dubai’s Smart Travel System’ and how you can use it to travel passport-free.

How the Smart Travel System works

The GDRFA has been bringing in cutting-edge innovation at the Dubai airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, since a long time back. In February 2021, taking cognizance of the pressing need in present times to make travel contact-less, it launched the ‘Biometric Passenger Journey’  at DXB in collaboration with the Emirates airline. Located close to the airport’s arrival and departure terminals, the gates are built at Dubai International Airport Terminal 3.

A staggering 122 smart gates at the airport have been upgraded to use biometric technology for the identification of passengers aged 17 and above. A blend of facial and iris recognition will replace the traditional printed passports as part of the paper-free experiment of the Dubai authorities.

This will make checking in the luggage, security checks, immigration, boarding as well as disembarking much more convenient, not to mention time-saving. Travellers will be able to complete the passport control procedures in just five to nine seconds, without having to come in contact with the ground staff.

The airport’s 32 self-check-in and 16 bag drop kiosks are also completely touchless now. Travellers can control them by mobile phones without touching the screens.

A Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1: The first time you use the smart pathways, you’ll have to register your passport at the check-in counter. Your registration will be valid on the system till the expiry of your passport.

Step 2: Once registered, simply walk through the smart tunnel, which has been fitted with a biometric scanner. All you need to do is show your face and look into the green dot in the camera. Make sure that you have removed anything that might cover your face, such as glasses, face masks, or hats.

Step 3: At the boarding gates, too, just use the biometric machine to be able to hop on the plane- with your documents safely in your bag!

Who can use the Smart Travel System?

People who fall into these categories are allowed to use the Smart Travel System:

  • nationals of the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 
  • residents of the United Arab Emirates 
  • citizens of countries eligible for visa-on-arrival 

However, people who fall into these categories below are NOT allowed to use the Smart Travel System:

  • determined individuals and visitors are pushing huge strollers.
  • families and children 
  • guests under the age of 15 or the height of 1.2 metres.
  • UAE citizens who have been abroad for more than six months and travellers with renewed passports cannot utilise Smart Gates.

To further check your Smart Gate eligibility, you can visit the GDRFA website and follow the instructions.


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