Update: Since this article was posted, the UK has opened biometric arrival gates to passport-holders from Singapore and South Korea.
Arrivals at UK airports with biometric passports from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan will be allowed to use the speedier electronic gates when passing through border control starting from next summer.
The announcement, made by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond as part of yesterday’s budget, has been welcomed by airlines as a way of reducing “appalling immigration queues”.
The gates use facial recognition technology to compare travellers’ faces with a scan of their passport and are not manned by human staff.
They are currently only available to arrivals with UK, EU, EEA or Swiss passports.
Hammond made the announcement as part of a pitch to international businesspeople.
“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,” he said yesterday.
“We’ll open the use of ePassport gates at Heathrow and other airports … to include visitors from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.”
The UK’s Board of Airline Representatives in the UK said: “This Summer, far too many visitors to the UK experienced appalling immigration queues and these plans should go some way to reducing queues on the manned desks.
“Airlines look forward working with the Home Office and Border Force on the implementation details to ensure that the new measures can be implemented effectively and as quickly as possible.”
A spokesperson for airline Virgin Atlantic said: “Virgin Atlantic welcomes today’s announcements that citizens from the UK’s most trusted security partners, including the United States and Australia, will be able to use e-gates at UK airports.
“This is an important first step in reducing waiting times for our customers when visiting the UK, ensuring they receive the welcome they deserve. With Christmas just around the corner, and another busy summer expected next year, the Government must act quickly to minimise disruption to those visiting the UK.”