When Joe and I went to London a month or so ago, our first 90 minutes were spent standing on the queue to get through immigration at Heathrow. We realized it was a necessary evil, but it made us even more appreciative that we had Global Entry, so we wouldn’t have to stand on a similar line when we got home.
Thankfully, the U.K. government just changed that.
Until today, only people with passports from the follow countries and regions were able to go through ePassport gates (a.k.a. eGates) at U.K. borders:
- European Union (EU)
- European Economic Area (EEA)
- Great Britain
However effective today, those who have passports from the following countries will be able to go through the eGates, as well:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United States
You can normally use ePassport gates if you:
- have a biometric symbol on the cover of your passport
- are aged 12+ (12 to 17 year olds must be accompanied by an adult)
Automated eGates offer an alternative to conventional passport checks and work similarly to those entering the U.S. with Global Entry. You just scan your e-passport at the barrier and their system runs a facial recognition check against the chip in your passport. If you pass and are eligible to enter the U.K., the gate opens automatically. If there are questions about your entry, you’ll need to go through the regular passport desk.
Here’s a quick video to explain the process:
The use of ePassport gates will occur at all U.K. entry points that have eGates available – currently a total of 15 air and rail ports.
With the introduction of eGates, the U.K. has also ended requiring visitors to fill out a landing card – even if you aren’t eligible to use the eGates, everything is done electronically, so you don’t have to fill out any paperwork.
This page of the U.K. government’s website is a guide that might be helpful in terms of what to expect and do (and not do) when arriving at the border.
This should make arriving in the U.K. a whole lot easier and faster. Cheers!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary