As of May 20, passengers arriving UK airports no long have to fill out UK landing cards. In addition, passport holders from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States will now be able to join the same queue as EU nationals. I mentioned that the UK was going to open up their ePassport lanes to foreign nationals in a post from late in 2018, and that time is now. Earlier, and including more countries than originally planned.
Source: The Independent
According to the UK Home Office, (analogous to a combination of the US Department of State and Department of Homeland Security):
The move is “designed to speed up border controls for low-risk countries.”
As a US citizen, I’m pleased with the change. The wait time for passport control can be long, especially at Heathrow. While these changes were proposed, I wasn’t sure when or if it would actually happen. Due to that uncertainty, I renewed my UK Registered Traveller, but since then I have entered the UK a total of 0 times. Whoops. A gamble that didn’t pay for me…
No more UK Landing Cards on arrival
Several countries have stopped using landing cards on arrival. Countries in the Schengen Zone (many EU nations), do not use landing cards at all. Canada eliminated these cards several years ago. Strangely, the decision to eliminate these cards was not announced in advance, even for Border Force staff. Representatives of these employees have expressed concerns about this sudden change. Despite that:
The Home Office maintains the decision will not cause a security risk, and that cards are primarily used to collect statistics rather than informing routine security checks.
Using ePassport gates at UK airports
As of now, passport holders from the seven countries mentioned above can use the ePassport gates that were previously reserved for UK residents, residents of other European Economic Area countries, and members of the Registered Traveller program. In my experience, the lines for these gates are very short, if there is any queue at all. This should be a big improvement for many travelers when going through border formalities.
How does it work? The gates use facial recognition technology to compare a 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.
Have you used the ePassport gates in UK airports? How was your experience? Hopefully this won’t slow down the ePassport gates!