Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed yesterday that overseas visitors from several countries will be able to use ePassport gates at the UK border from 2019 in a bid to ease queues.
By next summer, citizens from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan will be able to use the automatic gates as long as their passport has the biometric symbol on the cover.
The gates allow travellers to scan their own passports at a machine that locates their biometric data and uses facial recognition technology to confirm their identity. It means they don’t have to queue to see a border agent and the time it takes them to get through the border can be significantly reduced.
The service is currently only available to UK and EEA citizens, as well as frequent visitors from certain other countries who pay for the Registered Traveller scheme.
It was revealed earlier this year that the Border Force at Heathrow airport had only reached its target of a 45-minute wait or less for 95 per cent of visitors from outside the EEA on one day during the month of July.
Long queues at UK airports drew criticism from Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger and British Airways boss Alex Cruz, who both said action was needed to ensure visitors don’t see even longer waiting times after Brexit.
Detailing the initiative during yesterday’s Budget announcement, Hammond said the move would ‘improve the flow of passengers at busy airports’ such as Heathrow.
Welcoming the news, the Board of Airline Representatives UK (BAR UK), said: “This summer, far too many visitors to the UK experienced appalling immigration queues and these plans should go some way to reducing queues on the manned desks. Airlines look forward to working with the Home Office and Border Force on the implementation details to ensure that the new measures can be implemented effectively and as quickly as possible.”