LONDON • Singaporeans visiting the United Kingdom will be eligible to use automated ePassport gates when entering the country from the summer of 2019, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said yesterday.
The facility, currently available only to British and European Union nationals, will allow faster and secure processing of passengers entering Britain's borders.
The new proposal builds upon a plan to allow nationals from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan to use the automated gates from next summer by extending the facility to Singaporean and South Korean passport holders.
"The UK is absolutely open for business from the rest of the world and as part of that, we are improving the experience for travellers coming into the UK," Mr Javid said in a press statement issued by the British Home Office.
"I am pleased to announce today that, in addition to the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, we will be allowing passengers from Singapore and South Korea to use ePassport gates when they travel into the UK - a transformational experience for the passengers involved."
A statutory instrument will be laid in Parliament shortly to legislate the plan. This will give an additional 6.5 million passengers an automated route into Britain every year.
EPassport gates use facial recognition technology to compare passengers' passport photographs with their appearance. Anyone rejected at the gates will be sent to an alternative manned channel for a check by Border Force officers monitoring the systems.
In addition, all passengers are checked automatically against Border Force systems and watchlists.
At present, there are 259 ePassport gates in operation at 14 ports around Britain and juxtaposed control locations. People aged 18 and above travelling with a biometric or "chipped" passport can use them. Children aged 12 to 17 can also use them if accompanied by an adult.
Singapore is already one of the countries eligible for Britain's Registered Traveller programme. The by-invitation programme, with an annual fee of £50 (S$87), allows frequent travellers to use the automated passport gates.