With U.K. e-gates open to U.S. citizens, business travel across the pond just got a lot easier.
There’s nothing quite like returning to your home country after international travel. Why? Because it’s always easier for citizens to get through immigration. Now, Americans can feel just like they’re returning home when they enter the United Kingdom. In late May, U.K. e-gates opened to U.S. citizens.
Not familiar with e-gates? Here’s a little bit more about e-gates, their new availability, as well as how this change may affect international travelers.
What are E-Gates?
E-gates are a helpful alternative to traditional passport examinations that are more hands-on (and slow) in nature. When passing through an e-gate, travelers swipe their passports and allow for a facial-recognition scan. If a traveler’s passport and facial scans check out, the gates automatically open in just seconds.
Of course, this is highly efficient when compared to traditional passport checks that require travelers to wait in line and speak to an immigration official — who eventually stamps the passport and allows the traveler to pass. Americans traveling to the U.K. can now use e-gates to speed up entry, and they can then use Mobile Passport Control to also speed up reentry into the United States. In general, traveling between the U.S. and U.K. is now more efficient than ever.
How is the U.K. Expanding E-Gate Accessibility?
Prior to May, the U.K.’s e-gates were available only to travelers with passports from the U.K., the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland. The late-May expansion means that passport holders from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the U.S. may now use e-gates, too.
Travelers can find more than 250 e-gates across the United Kingdom. They are located in 15 air and railroad terminals. Anyone with a passport from the countries listed above and who is older than 12 may use e-gates. Travelers between the ages of 12 and 17 must be accompanied by a parent to use e-gates.
Why is the U.K. Expanding E-Gate Accessibility?
The expansion of e-gate access is part of a budget passed by the U.K.’s Parliament in fall of 2018. According to the U.K.’s home secretary, “The new system will help to drive our economy, cement our reputation as a global leader and send a clear message to the world — the U.K. is open for business.”
What Does This Mean for Business Travelers?
American travelers who visit the U.K. for business should be pleased with this change. In the long-term, expanded e-gate access should mean shorter wait times when passing through immigration. Travelers can plan travel and meetings more ambitiously, anticipating that they can get through immigration and into the country more quickly than before. There’s also a health benefit to shorter wait times. Business travel is stressful in general. Long waits compound that stress, while shorter waits can help alleviate stress.
That said, in the short-term, waits at e-gates may be a tad longer. The expanded access to e-gates will create crowds larger than the ones e-gates have accommodated in the past. Without a commiserate increase in the number of e-gates at airports and rail terminals, lines at e-gates may be longer than expected.
JTB Helps You Travel Efficiently and Affordably
Whether you travel domestically or internationally, JTB business travel can help you plan the most efficient itineraries and most affordable trips. As a comprehensive corporate travel agency, we help companies large and small through our common sense approach to business travel.