Life for about 6 million visitors entering Britain from the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and South Korea with ePassports is about to get easier.
Passengers with the chipped passports from these countries will be able to sidestep the long queues they previously found themselves facing and use ePassport smart gates from June.
Travelers from these countries will also no longer have to fill in a landing card.
ePassport gates are currently available to British, EU and European Economic Area nationals and allow passengers to be processed more quickly and securely. Registered travelers can also use the gates.
The change, which also applies to the Eurostar terminals in Paris and Brussels, aims to speed up processing at UK airports.
All passengers will continue to be automatically checked against UK Border Force systems and checklists.
“The expanded access to ePassport gates and the withdrawal of landing cards is part of our work to transform the UK’s border, providing a quicker, seamless experience for passengers that is built around digital systems,’’ Immigration Minister Carline Nokes said.
“These changes will deliver an improved arrival experience and is further encouragement for people who boost our economy through tourism and business to travel to the UK.”
The UK announced it would ease the restrictions in October 2018 but at that stage only gave summer 2019 as an indicative start date.
The UK government says there are more than 250 ePassport gates operating in 14 ports around the UK.
They are available to travelers aged 18 or over or to 12- to 17-year-olds accompanied by an adult.
While the new rules will be a boon to overseas travelers, there have been murmurings in the UK that the rise in visitors using the gates will slow the journey for locals.
Biometric airport gates are becoming more common worldwide and the number of ePassports is expected to increase by 18 percent in 2019, according to a report by Future Market Insights.