Millions more passengers from seven countries will be able to use automated passport gates rather than manned controls when they arrive in the UK. Travellers from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US will be checked only by digital technology. Facial recognition is used to compare the passenger’s face to the digital image in their passport. The Home Office said the move is designed to speed up border controls from “low-risk” countries. But a Border Force insider said that ePassport gates, as they are known, cannot calculate risk because they are unable to grant or refuse entry, examine passengers, stamp passports or calculate length of stay.
“It is tantamount to granting free movement to another seven countries rather than restricting it to the EU 27 [European countries],” they said.
“The ISU [the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs] are furious, and rightly so in my view. We should be introducing a UK ETA [electronic travel authorisation] on a reciprocal basis with these countries so we can conduct pre-travel risk assessments as they do to us.”
There were more than 10 million arrivals in the UK by nationals of the seven newly eligible countries in 2017.
There are 264 ePassport gates in operation at 15 air and rail terminals in the UK and at UK border controls in France and Belgium.
They are currently available for British and EU nationals, providing a faster route through the border.
They are monitored – but not manned – by Border Force officers.
Anyone rejected at the gates is sent to a manned passport check to have their identity and passport checked.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “Enabling more passengers to use ePassport gates is an important step in our efforts to enhance the welcome at the border.”