Passengers from the U.S. and Canada are among seven countries who can now use e-Passport gates, potentially easing and speeding entry into the UK.
The expansion of the e-Passport gate eligibility is set to significantly reduce lines and improve the flow of passengers in a convenience that was only available to nationals from the UK and the EU in the past.
e-Passports contain an electronic chip that holds the same information printed on the passport’s data page: the holder’s name, date of birth, and other biographic information. An e-Passport also contains a biometric identifier. The United States requires that the chip contain a digital photograph of the holder. All e-Passports issued by Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries and the United States have security features to prevent the unauthorized reading or “skimming” of data stored on the e-Passport chip.
Individuals with an e-Passport can go through the automated gates, which have their own lanes labeled with the e-Passport symbol. However, passengers age 17 and under cannot use the e-Passport gates, so those traveling with children must go through standard passport control. Once at the gates, travelers simply place their passport on the sensor at the barrier for scanning. Occasionally, passengers experience a glitch, as happened at e-Passport “SmartGates” at Australian airports in late April. Passport control machines that work with e-Passports and use facial recognition technology to check traveler identities malfunctioned, requiring passports to be checked manually and causing back-ups and delays.
The State Department has issued more than 21 million e-Passports.
“The new eGate access for eligible travelers boosts our competitive tourism offer and our message of welcome, building on the growth we have seen and inspiring even more visitors from Canada and the US to book a trip to the UK right now,” said VisitBritain’s Director of The Americas, Gavin Landry.
There are currently 264 e-Passport gates in operation at 15 air and rail terminals in the UK. Visitors from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States are eligible to use these new entry elements.
The US is the UK’s most valuable inbound visitor market for tourism spend. VisitBritain is expecting 3.9 million visits from the US this year with visitors forecast to spend $4.85 billion. Forward flight bookings from the US to the UK are currently tracking ahead 8% for arrivals from May to July this year compared to the same period last year.
For more information eligibility requirements, contact DHS.