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UPDATE: 21 MAY 2019 | Australian travellers can now swipe their passports at the automated e-passport gates of all UK airports, bypassing the slow and snaking lines for the staffed immigration desks – a move which will be especially welcome when it comes to beating the morning queues at London's busy Heathrow hub.
Also on the fast-track list are visitors from New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the USA.
Although the streamlined system was due to take effect around June, the UK government opened its e-passport gates to travellers from all seven countries overnight.
No special advance registration is needed to use the e-passport gates at UK airports, as well as the Eurostar rail terminals at St Pancras and Ebbsfleet International.
The UK is also scrapping landing cards for all passengers – not just those who come through the e-passport gates.
PREVIOUS | All Australian passport holders will be able to skip the often-lengthy immigration queues at United Kingdom airports from next year with the UK Government opening its ePassport lanes to Australian travellers, along with those from New Zealand, the USA, Canada and Japan.
Set to come online by “next summer” – that’s June 2019 in the UK – the development will largely make the UK’s paid Registered Traveller scheme redundant for Australians, as access to the ePassport channels on arrival in the UK, particularly at London Heathrow, is the program’s biggest perk.
Currently, free use of the ePassport lanes is a privilege reserved for UK and EU/EEA passport holders, as Australians who are regular UK visitors can pay a fee of approximately $122 in the first year to join Registered Traveller to access the ePassport channels, and $87 to renew for a further 12 months.
Once the changes take effect next year, Aussies would no longer require a paid Registered Traveller membership to breeze through the ePassport lanes: it’d simply be free.
Under today’s system, passengers eligible for the ePassport lanes – including Australians enrolled in the Registered Traveller scheme – don’t need to complete a UK landing card, and if those arrangements continue next year, it’ll be another welcome change for Aussie travellers.
The changes were detailed by the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, during a budget statement given to the House of Commons at the Palace of Westminster in London on Monday.
“I can announce a package of measures to stimulate business investment and send a message loud and clear to the rest of the world: Britain is open for business,” said the Chancellor.
“We’ll open the use of ePassport gates at Heathrow and other airports … currently only available to EEA nationals … to include visitors from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.”
In the meantime, however, Australian travellers who have visited the UK at least four times in the past 24 months can continue to make use of Registered Traveller to skip the queues at UK passport control.