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Airports

At Heathrow, Americans Can Skip the Line to Enter the UK

At Heathrow, Americans Can Skip the Line to Enter the UK
Jackie Reddy

The British government has revealed that, in 2019, holders of American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese passports can use LHR’s eGates. The privilege was previously only granted to European passport holders. The move is seen as an attempt to encourage ties with non-European nations.

Long lines at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) have been the bane of many an arriving traveler over the last few months, but it seems that – for some passengers, at least – a reprieve is in sight. On Monday, the British government announced that holders of American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese passports will be permitted to use LHR’s eGates, something that should make entry formalities move more swiftly and smoothly.

Though this news garnered only a small paragraph of a recent press release issued by LHR, this announcement is notable in that it comes just as Brexit negotiations enter a new phase. As NerdWallet indicates, it is hoped that this relaxation of rules for this particular group of passport holders will help to encourage and foster stronger trade ties among travelers from non-European nations.

This speedier processing comes just months after both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic criticized the immigration wait times for non-European nationals arriving at the airport, which were exceeding two hours in length.

Speaking to the BBC this past August, Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, was quoted by the outlet as saying, “At a time when the UK needs to show the world it is open for business, the government and Border Force need to provide a great first impression for every visitor every time.”

It appears that Kreeger’s words were heeded and, as of January of 2019, passport holders of these nations will now be permitted swift processing via LHR’s eGates, something only previously allowed for European visitors.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (8)

8 Comments

  1. skitot

    November 14, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Perhaps the US would consider returning the favour? We regularly fly into SFO from LHR and usually stand in the immigration queue for more than an hour. (And on a couple of joyous occasions, 2. 5 hours!) When we do finally reach the desk after being shouted at time and again by the ‘cattle prodders’, do we receive a smile and a welcome? Huh! We are then barked at like criminals. If the skiing wasn’t so awesome at Tahoe, quite frankly, we wouldn’t bother. “Special relationship? My foot!

  2. gogogo2

    November 14, 2018 at 5:55 am

    Actually, the Brits have a trusted traveler program that alllows Americans to use the eGates. You have to sign up and pay a fee, similar to Global Entry. After waiting over an hour a couple of times, I decided it was worth the cost. I was in London last week and flew through immigration in minutes using the eGates. Alas, I just paid 50 pounds to renew for next year.

  3. UncleDude

    November 14, 2018 at 7:24 am

    When will UK Border Control so something about UK Domestic Connecting Passengers at Heathrow. Still no E-Gate to Electronic systems just a 30 Minute Pus wait.

  4. Bretteee

    November 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    When I arrived at Heathrow last month for the first ti me since 1958 I had to prove I was leaving the following day. It’s never happened before.

  5. j2simpso

    November 14, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Is this the same thing as Registered Traveller? I’m a Canuck and forked over 70 quid for the privilege of joining the program.

  6. flyerCO

    November 16, 2018 at 5:41 am

    @skitot – You can use the automated kiosks just like US & Canadian citizens. The only restriction is that you must have entered the US on the same ETSA number previously. Once that’s done you can use the kiosks till you have to apply for a new ETSA.

    @j2simpso – These are just the egates, not registered traveller programs. Right now you have to registered to use the egates if not a UK/EU citizen. You won’t have to pay or register to use them. Just like in New Zealand/Australia, you simply walk up to the egate just like a NZ/AUS citizen. It simply recognizes that your passport is from a country that can use it. It then verifies your info in the system, and if your picture matches your face the gate opens.

  7. Redheadpeter

    November 21, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Make me laugh. I’m on my second e-passport (the one with the chip) and not once has the e-gate worked for me. You get to go to a special manual desk when it fails but the situation is ridiculous (especially as the e-gate at Singapore worked for me). Once all these foreigners start using the e-gates (there aren’t that many) it will be quicker to stand in the regular queue.

  8. N1120A

    November 22, 2018 at 9:40 am

    So basically RT for free, at least at Heathrow. They will need to expand the eGates and make them more reliable for this.

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