U.S. citizens and Canadian citizens are among those of seven countries who can now use the ePassport gates in the U.K. This will make getting through customs faster and easier, which was the goal of the expansion. The intention is to improve the overall experience at the border, as well as to significantly reduce lines and improve the flow of passengers.
Previously, these e-passport lanes were only available to nationals of the EU and the U.K.
With the new rules in place, eligible nationals will be exempt from the landing card requirement, providing a faster route through the border.
“We aim to provide a world-class experience for the millions of American and Canadian visitors who travel to the U.K. every year, and we are thrilled this new process will allow travelers even more time to explore on the ground,” said Gavin Landry, director of the Americas for VisitBritain.
“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 U.S. to book a trip to the U.K. right now,” Landry added. “With more direct airline routes and more daily flights from the U.S. on offer, and with the U.K. offering great value and a fantastic summer of events lined up, it really is a great time to book a trip.”
According to VisitBritain data, the U.S. is the U.K.’s most valuable inbound visitor market for tourism spend.
This year, VisitBritain is forecasting 3.9 million visits from the U.S., with visitors projected to spend £3.8 billion. Forward flight bookings from the U.S. to the U.K. are currently tracking ahead 8 percent for arrivals from May to July this year compared to the same period last year.
The U.K. is already one of the world leaders in automated passenger clearance with more than 51.9 million passengers utilizing its ePassport gates. This will be increased significantly with the new expansion.
The gates use facial recognition technology to compare the passenger’s face to the passport image and is monitored by Border Force officers. Those who are rejected proceed to manned passport check stations where their passport and identity will be checked.
Travelers who are 18 and over can use the ePassport stations if they are traveling with a biometric or ‘chipped’ passport. Travelers ages 12 to 17 who are accompanied by an adult may also use the ePassport stations. Younger travelers proceed to the manned passport check stations.
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