Immigration Update: e-gates open to US citizens and others from June 2019

1 March 2019

Nationals of the United States and six other countries will be able to start using electronic passport control gates when they enter the UK from June 2019.

The new system was announced in October 2018 and the legislation enabling it was passed in February 2019.

At the moment electronic passport control gates – known as e-gates or ePassport gates – can be used by British and EU nationals aged 12 and over.

From June 2019 e-gates will be open to passport holders of the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • United States of America

People from these countries who don’t already have a visa will automatically be granted entry as a standard visitor for six months, with the usual prohibition on employment and recourse to public funds.

 

The following groups of people should not use e-gates:

  • People who are entering the UK for the first time on a different type of visa, such as a spouse visa. These people need to get their visa stamped by an Immigration Officer the first time they enter the UK.
  • People who don’t have a visa and are seeking entry for a different purpose – for instance under the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Creative and Sporting category or the Visitor (Permitted Paid Engagements) category. These people need to see an Immigration Officer and ask to be stamped in under the appropriate category.
  • People who have had immigration problems in the UK and are hoping to slip in without being questioned. Passengers using e-gates are checked against Border Force systems. If the person is flagged on these systems the gate won’t open and they will be taken aside for questioning.

 

The new system will make entry to the UK much quicker for people travelling on business or for tourism.

Business travellers and their employers need to bear in mind that the same restrictions apply to people entering as visitors regardless of whether they are stamped in by an Immigration Officer or use an e-gate. Visitors are not allowed to work or study in the UK except in very limited circumstances. They are also not allowed to live in the UK for extended periods. The Home Office already collects entry and exit data from airlines and other carriers taking people to and from the UK. Anyone using e-gates can also expect to have their movements tracked. If a visitor appears to be spending most of their time in the UK they will run into trouble, whether or not they use e-gates.

The original version of this update incorrectly stated that the new system would come into effect on 11 March 2019. The Government has since announced that it will not implement the new system until June 2019.

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