Singaporeans can use e-gates at Heathrow and other British airports from May 20

This service, which also includes arrivals via the Eurostar arrival terminal, will allow faster and secure processing of passengers entering Britain's borders. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans visiting Britain are eligible to use automated ePassport gates (e-gates) at 15 airports across the country starting Monday (May 20).

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

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

The move, announced in Dec 2018 but only took effect on Monday, was then hailed by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid as a "transformational experience for the passengers involved".

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

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 by 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 automatically checked against Border Force systems and watchlists.

There are over 250 e-gates in place at 15 air and rail ports in the UK. 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 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 that the UK was the most visited Western Europe destination for Singapore travellers in 2017.

Separately, all landing cards for international passengers arriving in the UK will also be scrapped from Monday, the BBC reported.

Much of the data collected by paper landing cards will soon be available digitally, the BBC said, 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 are issued every year and are used to record what is said to border staff on arrival, as well as the reasons for travel and conditions of entry, the UK broadcaster said.

The decision to scrap landing cards comes after the British government announced the extension of the use of e-gates at UK borders.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.