On 4 December the Home Office announced the unveiling of new generation state of the art machines at London Gatwick airport which allow passengers with an electronic chip in their passport to pass quickly and efficiently through immigration control.

This is one of the measures the Home Office is currently focussing on to improve services at the border. Another service which we wrote to you about on 26 September is the Registered Travellers Scheme which is currently being piloted at both Gatwick and Heathrow airports until 31 March 2014. If the pilot proves successful, those Registered Travellers qualifying to take part will benefit from a quicker transaction at the border as they will not need to be processed through the normal passport desks. There will be a dedicated lane for Registered Travellers.

Registered Travellers with a compatible biometric chipped passport will be able to use the electronic passport gates at Gatwick. There will be an annual membership charge and a fee for registering new passports and using this service. (see eligibility and criteria at www.gov.uk/registered-traveller-scheme).

The Scheme is only open to visitors who previously registered under the IRIS scheme during the pilot, however, as part of its consultation on fees and charging, the Home Office is considering extending this type of premium service to other visa categories, including limited leave to remain.

New Visa4 UK Website

On 22 November the Home Office launched a new Visa4 UK website. Applicants are now required to register an account before proceeding to apply for entry clearance to the UK. The format has changed and a number of additional questions have been added. For those applying under Tier 2, a CoS number is now requested as well as details of the proposed employment in the UK. There have been some teething problems with this form which the Home Office is currently seeking to rectify.