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.
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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.
Announcement made by UK Chancellor Philip Hammond in his ‘give-away’ budget, might be less welcomed by British and European citizens, who usually speed through an ever-increasing number of ePassport gates at the UK’s major airports.
With this change, more passengers will join them and, inevitably, waiting times will increase. That said, it’s unclear, although assumed, that the current ePassport arrangements with the European Economic Area (EEA), will continue.
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