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Information contained on UK passports


Aim of this information

This information is designed to clarify what is actually disclosed on biometric passports when they are scanned by Immigration Control Officials and, in particular, whether details of your criminal record are revealed.

Why is this important?

There are many misconceptions about what criminal record information is held on a biometric passport. This can cause undue anxiety when travelling abroad and may sometimes deter people from overseas travel altogether.


The UK has been issuing ‘biometric’ passports (also known as ‘ePassports’) since 2006. These passports include a microchip which stores a digitised image of the holder’s passport photograph as well as the biographical details printed on the passport.

The EU has set minimum standards for passports which include the use of facial and fingerprint biometrics. The UK is not covered by these regulations and fingerprint biometrics are not included in UK passports.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation recommendations for biometric standards include a digitised photograph embedded on a chip in the passport. Countries wishing to stay in the US Visa Waiver programme have had to start issuing biometric passports in line with these international recommendations. For further information about the US Visa Waiver Programme see our Travelling to the US – Travelling without a visa.

What information does the chip contain?

The UK’s biometric passports contain a microchip with a ‘facial biometric’. This is a digitised image of the holders photograph. Various features on the face, for example the distance between eyes, nose, mouth and ears, are digitally coded from the photograph and the information stored on the electronic chip.

The chip also stores electronically, the biographical information which is printed in the passport. It does not contain any information which is not also on the face of the passport. The information printed on the passport can be checked against the information on the chip, which is intended to be harder to forge. The information on the chip is encrypted so it can only be read by special biometric passport readers (eReaders).

For further information, have a look at the HM Passport Office Privacy Policy.

Should I be worried that information about my criminal record will be disclosed?

Details of your criminal record are not shown when your passport is scanned.

The only time your passport is likely to be ‘flagged’ is when:

  • there is a warrant out for your arrest either nationally or internationally through Interpol
  • you are currently undergoing investigation for a possible criminal offence
  • you have been engaged in some kind of terrorist activity and/or on a Watch List
  • you are on bail awaiting sentencing
  • you are taking children out of the country without parental permission

Anyone on the Sex Offenders Register who has notified the police of their intention to travel may have a Green Notice issued and ‘flagged’ via their passport. This Notice provides warnings and criminal intelligence about a persons criminal activities, where the person is considered to be a possible threat to public safety. The Notice should be removed at the end of the period of travel.

How can overseas immigration authorities find out about a criminal record?

The UK will only share information with another country about a person’s criminal record if a request is made by the country through the correct Interpol channels. Such a request would not be made (and wouldn’t be granted) unless there was suspicion of illegal behaviour.

The UK Passport Office state that this is only likely to occur if you commit a crime whilst in the country you have travelled to. For example, if you are apprehended by the local police for, say, a driving offence, robbery, assault etc, then they may check your criminal record in the UK. The correct legal channels would still need to be gone through.

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information – More information on travel can be found here.
  2. Discuss this issue – Read and share your experiences on our online forum

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:-

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord


Add Comment
    1. I got a warning in an airport and am concerned if this will show up on my passport when getting a disclosure check for a new job. It wasnt a conviction or anything but do you think it will show up on anything related to my passport?

  1. I came through the airport this morning at Gatwick. I told the border control my passport never works at the egates and asked why. He replied ‘there is a reason but i cannot discuss it with you’? Really confused. Any ideas??? Emailed
    Homeoffice but whether i get a reply in their 20 day timescale – god knows?

    1. Hello Alan,

      This just happen to me today,
      They sat me down made it look like it was something huge, took my passport away came back 5min later and told me to go, I asked what was that all about and they said is confidential.
      Wtf do they mean by that, now I feel like my name is involved in some sort international crime or something.

      Did you get an answer from the home office? And can you please share the email address for them!

      Best wishes

      1. I have the same issues for more than a year now. 10/10 times I get “seek assistance” at e-gates. I have been told a combination of my names are being flagged as they are looking for this person. I was told it’s not possible to change and could take years. Informal advice was to ignore the e-gates.

        Frustrating indeed as it messes things up with family travel as I always get stuck. However good to know it’s not specifically about me. HTH.

    2. Did you get anywhere with this ?
      I’ve contacted my MP , I tried to make a complaint to Border Force at Heathrow(they couldn’t care less).
      I’ve been told by two separate BF officials on two differenr occasions that it’s a Home Office cock up.
      I wnat to register a complaint and have HO correct THEIR mistake.
      Your case sounds similar to mine

    1. Hi Richard

      Biometric passports contain personal information which allows passengers to be identified at countries borders. This includes name, date and place of birth and a photograph. It wouldn’t contain details of countries you had visited, although this may be disclosed if your passport had been stamped when entering or leaving a destination.

      Best wishes


  2. Morning All ,

    I am travelling to Cape Verde in a weeks time , for all concerned I am going to record my experience going and returning.
    I was convicted ( not even at home when the offence took place , I won’t go on about it )

    Subsequently I am on the SOR
    i have made my notifications
    I have advised my managing officer ( who by the doesn’t bother visiting me 4 months at a time if I’m lucky )

    I have submitted my new passport to my local station as I renewed it .

    Basically I have done everything I have to do.
    I am travelling with my other half plus 2 all of which know my conviction .

    Even though I sit at the bottom of any type of risk probably off the scale of zero risk there is a certain amount of anxiety I am feeling .

    Boarder control is where it starts I guess . Let’s see

    This is going to be a real life exercise and my true experience will be shared on here .

    I sincerely hope this is useful? I will update accordingly.

    1. I’m very interested on how you get on with your trip I also have plans on a visit to Cape Verde next year I have done all I need to begin again after a conviction and am free to travel but fear customs also with no info readily available on this matter

      1. Hi Mark,

        I travelled to Cape Verde in 2022 whilst I was still on license. I had previously done 2 years jail time for an assault and it wasn’t a problem.

        Don’t worry and have a good trip.

    2. Hi Richard,

      My partner is in a very similar situation and through no fault of his own he ended up on the SOR, so totally zero risk to society! We are getting married but we’re scared about booking the honeymoon as we’re not sure how the airport security will be.

      How was your experience travelling to and from Cape Verde?


  3. Passport scanned, came up with small red x on the screen? Any idea what this means, wasn’t flagged or pulled to one side?

    1. Passport scanned in Hungary , came up with small red x on the screen? They were only reading the comments and clicked to close then stamp my passport and let me go , again on couple of more borders they were reading the comment again stamp and go ??
      Any idea what this means, wasn’t flagged or pulled to one side just some comment.
      Please someone with same experience.

  4. I’m currently planning to travel to Portugal next week week and I have a S39 conviction. Can someone please reassure me that I’ll be fine to enter the country, it’s my first time travelling since my conviction so I’m very stressed.


    1. Hi Ashley

      I can confirm that there is no link from your passport to your criminal record and therefore you’ll have no problem in leaving the UK or entering Portugal.

      It’s possible that next year, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will commence which will mean that travellers to the EU will have to apply for an online visa to travel – However, until this is implemented, you are free to travel within the EU.

      Best wishes


  5. Hi I am English .I married Spaniard in 1999 in Spain .We had a child then in 2000.
    In 2008 my ex reurned to Sapin and divorced me in 2009.I have not been in Spain since 2011 and never paid the amount which the divorce judge said I should .However I did paY SOMETHING EVERY MONTH.
    I now wou;d like to return to have aholiday in SPAIN. I last received some communication from the Spanish authorities in 2014 and provided an update via british Police ,then nothing more. everything quiet.So now 9 years have passed so will I be arrested at the airport for contempt of court?(I never went to the hearing) ? Opinions please.

  6. If there is a warrant out for my arrest in the UK but I am in another country for example, Thailand and then I travel from Thailand to Moldova will the warrant show when going through the airport? (Not an interpol warrant)

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Debbie Sadler
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