The first passengers have stepped through new state-of-the-art facial recognition border gates at Birmingham International Airport.

The brand new gates measure points on a person’s face and compares them to the digital photograph inside the passport.

The gates, which are now at eight UK airports at a cost of £1.2 billion, also read the holder details from a chip inside the passport and check the holder against security watch-lists. The microchips have been fitted to new passports since 2006 and should be in the hands of every UK passport holder by 2016.

The details on the chip are opened up and sent to a border officer at the exit to the gates area. The five electronic border gates will complement conventional border gates and can only be used by European biometric passport holders over the age of 18.

Vikky Millar, project manager of the scheme with the Border Agency, said: “On average it will take each person 20 to 25 seconds to clear the gates. There will be an element of familiarisation, but we expect all passport holders to be using them by 2016.

“There will be occasions where the scan may not pick up changes to the face and there will always be the human intervention..”

UK Border Agency assistant director Alex Lawther said: “The new facial recognition gates here at Birmingham will improve our service to the public, processing passengers securely and freeing officers to focus their time on other areas of risk.”

Will Heynes, airport operations director, said: “The feedback has been very positive.”