The UK government has expanded the use of ePassport gates to eligible travellers from seven non-EU countries, in a move designed to speed up border controls and enable passengers to enter the UK quickly and securely.
In the new changes to the border, nationals from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States can now use the automated ePassport gates. There were over 10 million arrivals in the UK by nationals from these countries in 2017.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the new system “will improve security and fluidity for passengers” and continued: “Expanding the use of ePassport gates is a key part of this and allows us to improve the passenger experience of those arriving in the UK while keeping our border secure.”
He added: “The new system will help to drive our economy, cement our reputation as a global leader and send a clear message to the world – the UK is open for business.”
The move comes ahead of schedule following a commitment made in the Spring Statement that nationals from these seven countries would be able to use ePassport gates from June.
The gates use facial recognition technology to compare a passenger’s face to the digital image recorded in their passport. These are monitored by Border Force officers and anyone rejected at the gates will be sent to a manned passport check.
The gates can be used by those aged 18 and over, travelling with a biometric or ‘chipped’ passport. Those aged 12 to 17 accompanied by an adult are also able to use them.
“As airports prepare for the busy summer months, we know that no one likes to wait long in a queue for passport control. That is why airports work closely with Border Force to ensure the border is welcoming, while maintaining the UK’s security,” chief executive of the Airport Operators Association Karen Dee commented.
“Enabling more passengers to use ePassport gates is an important next step in our joint efforts to enhance the welcome at the border. It will demonstrate the UK is open for business, tourism and visiting friends and relatives. It will also free up Border Force officers for other duties, improving the experience of all passengers.”
ePassport gates have been available to British and EU nationals since 2008 and EU nationals will remain eligible to use them once the UK leaves the EU.
In the year ending September 2018, 51.9 million passengers used them across the UK and juxtaposed controls.
The government is also removing the need for all non-EEA travellers to fill in landing cards on arrival in the UK, which the government says will reduce the “burden on passengers while maintaining the UK’s border security, as exactly the same security checks will be in place.”