UK to extend use of ePassport (e-gates) at UK Airports from 2019
The UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond announced in his Budget speech that visitors from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the United States would be able to pass through e-gates at UK airports if in possession of an ePassport. Electronically enabled passports, or e Passports or biometric passports as commonly known, have been in circulation since 2006, however various restrictions apply around their use. Children are not permitted to use e-Gates at the majority of airports rendering the fast track immigration redundant for families. E Passports were aimed at business travellers to help speed up passage through airport terminals and give the economy a boost and the recent announcement is aimed to support just that.
Post Brexit ePassports
With the UK set to leave the EU on 29th March 2019, the chancellor was keen to emphasise Britain’s ‘open for business’ position with non EU countries, hence the relaxation of the rules for residents of Britain’s closest allies and those with greatest economic influence outside of the EU. Up until today’s announcement, e-gates have been restricted for passengers from within the EEA (European Economic Area), however that is all set to change from 2019. Heathrow
is expected to lead the way with the UK’s other international and regional airports set to follow suit.
Can EU citizens still use eGates?
There is still a lot to be ironed out, however there was no mention of rescinding EU citizens ability to use eGates. The EU will still remain the UK’s closest and largest market, both export and import and the vast number of tourists that visit the UK from the EU. Visitors from France
and the USA
account for 27% of the total visitors to the UK, hence the decision to relax the rules around the use of egates at UK airports for US citizens. There is still much uncertainty around Brexit and how travel plans will be affected. Read our recent post on how a Brexit no deal could affect car rental
Inbound Tourism to UK in 2017
The move is set to benefit nearly 4 million visitors from the USA, over 1 million from Australia, 840 thousand visitors from Canada, a quarter of a million visitors from Japan and a similar number from New Zealand as per the table below based on 2017 statistics from Visit Britain. Combined, that’s a total of over 6 million visitors to the UK could be eligible to use eGates at UK airports with their ePassports subject to meeting other criteria.
Country of residence