Up until now, e-gates at immigration in the UK have only been available to those with passports from the UK, EU, EEA, and Switzerland. As of today, eligibility has been expanded by seven countries. This is awesome, since initially this change was only supposed to be made in June, so this is being implemented earlier than expected.
The automated e-gates at immigration in the UK have become available to passport holders from the following countries:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United States
This applies at all UK airports with e-gates, so this isn’t just limited to Heathrow, or anything. There are a total of 264 e-gates in the UK, at 15 air and rail terminals.
There is no registration required to use e-gates as long as you have a passport with a chip. You simply slide your passport onto the reader, step forward, take a picture, and you’ll be on your way.
The one exception is that those under 12 can’t use e-gates, while those who are 12-17 can use the e-gates when accompanied by an adult.
The UK is also abolishing landing cards for all passengers, so there is no longer any paperwork to fill out even if you aren’t eligible to use one of the e-gates.
While the UK has a Registered Traveller program through which select passport holders have been able to get access to these for a cost, under the new system that is no longer be required.
We knew this was coming, since this was part of the UK Parliament’s annual budget which was initially released last fall, and we knew they were planning on implementing this in mid-2019. As of mid-April we were told this would go live in June, though they ended up implementing this a bit earlier than expected.
The UK’s Home Secretary says that “the new system will help to drive our economy, cement our reputation as a global leader and send a clear message to the world – the UK is open for business.”
I’d say this is mostly good news, though I’d also note that this likely means that those who previously had access to e-gates should expect to wait longer. Hopefully they install a significant number of new kiosks, or else we’ll simply see the lines shifting from the regular line to the e-gates.
This will be especially true in Terminal 3 & Terminal 5 at Heathrow in the mornings, when a good percentage of the passengers are arriving from countries that have been added to the e-gates list.
Overall it’s great news that the UK is expanding access to e-gates, and the implementation is even coming sooner than expected. The UK sometimes has awful immigration wait times, so hopefully this goes a long way to combat that.
Thanks to my German passport I’ve had access to e-gates for years, and have never had to wait there. However, with access to e-gates so greatly expanded, I hope that they expand the number of machines that they offer, or at a minimum make sure that all machines are working during peak hours, as often quite a few of them are out.
Even if nothing changes, this should still be good on balance, since using an e-gate takes all of 10 seconds, while an immigration officer processing a passenger usually takes much longer.
How do you feel about the UK expanding e-gate usage for more nationalities? If you enter the UK in the coming days, please report back on how long the lines are!