Singaporeans arriving in Britain can use e-gates at 15 airports

Singaporeans visiting Britain are now eligible to use automated ePassport gates (e-gates) at 15 airports across the country.

The border entry service, previously available only to British and European Union nationals, was extended to Singapore passport holders as of yesterday, along with visitors from Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.

The service, which also includes arrivals via Eurostar terminals, will allow faster and secure processing of passengers entering Britain's borders.

The move, announced last December, was hailed by British Home Secretary Sajid Javid as a "transformational experience for the passengers involved".

Heathrow Airport, one of the world's busiest airports, last year called for the British government to allow "low-risk" passengers to use e-gates, citing lengthy delays at border control.

The move will give an additional 6.5 million passengers an automated route into Britain every year.

E-gates use facial recognition technology to compare passengers' passport photographs with their appearance. Anyone rejected by the gates will be sent to an alternative manned channel for a check by UK Border Force officers.

 

In addition, all passengers are automatically checked against Border Force systems and watchlists.

There are more than 250 e-gates in place at 15 air and rail ports in the United Kingdom. People aged 18 and over travelling with a biometric or "chipped" passport can use them. Children aged 12 to 17 can also use them if accompanied by an adult.

Close to 120,000 Singaporeans visited the UK in 2017, according to data from VisitBritain.org. About half of them were there on holiday, while others were there for business, visiting friends and relatives, study and other reasons. The website also said the UK was the most visited western European destination for Singapore travellers in 2017.

Separately, all landing cards for international passengers arriving in Britain were scrapped yesterday.

Much of the data collected by paper landing cards will soon be available digitally, the BBC reported, citing information from an official document issued to Border Force staff.

UK Border Force director-general Paul Lincoln said the move would "help meet the challenge of growing passenger numbers".

Around 16 million landing cards were issued every year to record information given to border staff on arrival, as well as the reasons for travel and conditions of entry.

  • Additional reporting by Goh Yan Han
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2019, with the headline 'S'poreans arriving in Britain can use e-gates at 15 airports'. Print Edition | Subscribe