For those coming to the UK from certain countries outside the European Union, it can be a royal pain waiting in line to clear UK immigration. Well, for seven nationalities – they will now be able to clear the UK Border using ePassport gates.
From 20th May (today), visitors to the UK from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States can use the ePassport Gates when visiting the United Kingdom – at various points of entry, as well as at juxtaposed border crossings in a move by HM Government to speed up border controls for low-risk countries.
As we’re all aware, the ePassport gates use facial recognition to compare the passenger’s face to the digital image recorded in their passport. They are monitored by Border Force officers and anyone rejected at the gates will be sent to a manned passport check to have their identity and passport checked.
The gates are available to passengers over 18 years of age with a biometric/chipped passport. Those ages 12-17 can use the ePassport lanes with an accompanying adult. In some cases, you will still need to use the manual clearances, with some of the following cases listed:
- children aged 11 and under and their accompanying adults
- those without chipped passports
- limited numbers of individuals coming for distinct migration purposes where they require specific grants of leave from an immigration officer
With 10 million visitors from these countries (in 2017), its a sizeable number of people to clear – with 51.9 million users clearing the UK border via the ePassport infrastructure last year. EU Nationals and UK Citizens have been using variants of this technology since 2008, with HM Government signalling that EU Citizens will be able to continue using it once the UK leaves the European Union.
The Government is removing the need for all non-EEA travellers to fill in landing cards upon arrival in the UK – which in theory makes for a smoother entry to the country. The same security checks will be carried out at the UK Border as are currently.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“Our new global immigration and border system will improve security and fluidity for passengers coming to visit or work in the UK.
“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.
“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.”
Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association Karen Dee said:
“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.
“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.”
The ePassport Gates offer an easier way to enter the United Kingdom – but is the infrastructure up to it?
For visitors, using the ePassport lanes might speed things up a lot when coming into the United Kingdom (you need only look at some of the immigration queues when entering the United Kingdom off an originating US flight first thing in the morning).
However, I’ve still got concerns if the infrastructure is up to it. Too many times have I seen a number of gates closed, or people getting rejected from the system without any why and wherefores.
So much so, I wrote to Home Office about this and got a very… well… brush off reply in regards to the acceptance/rejection rate – fearing the numbers could be used for criminal use.
With another 10 million plus eligible users for the ePassport Gate Entry, it will be interesting to see how the infrastructure copes.
Editors note: Published and released per embargo information provider by HM Government Home Office.
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