From 20 May 2019 nationals of the following countries can now use electronic passport gates (e-gates) to enter the UK:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea

There are currently 264 e-gates in operation across 15 air and rail terminals in the UK. Business and tourist travellers from these seven countries should find that their entry to the UK will be faster and easier if they are not already registered travellers. The UK has also recently scrapped paper landing cards for all non-EU travellers, which will also make entry easier.

Adult nationals – and children aged 12 to 17 accompanied by an adult - with a biometric passport from one of these seven countries can join UK and EEA travellers in using the e-gates and the UK/EEA entry line for faster-track entry. They will no longer need to apply to the Registered Traveller service (it is now closed to them as there is now automatic fast-track entry), but that scheme will continue to be available for travellers from certain other approved countries who meet the criteria and wish to apply to use the e-gates too.

When the e-gates can't be used

Travellers must still see a border control officer to receive a stamp in their passport if they are entering the UK:

  • with children under 12
  • on a short term study visa up to six months
  • with a Tier 5 Creative or Sporting certificate of sponsorship for up to three months (and the traveller wants to enter without a visa)
  • on a permitted paid engagement as a visitor
  • to accompany or join an EEA or Swiss family member

While not mandatory, those that have had immigration problems or refusals in the past should seek to explain their circumstances to a border official too. The increased use of e-gates improves ease of travel, but it is likely to mean greater digital monitoring of travellers and more information sharing between border officials, airlines and possibly tax authorities to check whether travellers are meeting their obligations.

Stamping 30 day visa vignettes

Those applying overseas for a UK entry clearance visa will be used to ensuring that their 30 day vignette in their passport is date stamped by border control, so they can collect their biometric card after arrival in the UK. That requirement should no longer apply to travellers from those seven countries, but for those granted approval in a visa route leading to indefinite leave to remain (ILR) - such as sole representatives, Tier 2 General or Tier 1 Investor - we would still recommend getting a date stamp from a border control officer on first entry. That stamp will provide evidence of date of entry that may be helpful later when calculating ILR eligibility or deadlines to meet visa conditions.

Visiting the UK

Visitors that do not already have a visit visa that was granted overseas will automatically be granted entry as a standard visitor for six months when entering through the e-gates, with the usual prohibition on taking employment or claiming public funds. It is important to note that the concession around the use of e-gates does not relax the rules applying to all visitors – while they can engage in certain permitted business activity, with some limited exceptions they cannot work or study in the UK. And they cannot make the UK their main home. As always, non-EEA travellers that want to live, work or study in the UK should consider applying for a specific visa permitting that activity.