3 tips for faster travel
through the UK

As the busy Christmas period approaches and international travel restrictions have eased, the volume of passengers passing through the UK border is expected to increase.

Those travelling at busy periods should be prepared for delays and may need to wait longer than usual to pass through the border, particularly due to the addition of COVID-19 requirements placed on those arriving in the UK from abroad.

However, there are a number of steps you can take to help Border Force officers process you as quickly as possible and improve your travel experience. Here are our top three tips for faster travel through the UK border.

Use eGates for quicker entry

Automated eGates at UK air and rail ports are self-service barriers which utilise facial recognition technology to verify an individual’s identity against the data in their biometric passport chip. The gates are operated by the UK Border Force, and offer an alternative to desks staffed by immigration officers. There are over 270 eGates in place at 15 air and rail ports in the UK to enable quicker travel into the UK.

You can normally use eGates if you:

  • Have a biometric symbol on the cover of your passport
  • Are aged 12+ (12 to 17 year olds must be accompanied by an adult)
  • You are either:
    • A British citizen
    • A national of an EU country, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the USA
    • A member of the Registered Traveller Service.

However, certain travellers cannot use eGates and should instead see a Border Force officer at a staffed desk to get their passport stamped on arrival. You must get your passport stamped if you are coming to the UK:

  • With a Temporary Work – Creative Worker Certificate of Sponsorship for short-term assignments of up to three months
  • To carry out Permitted Paid Engagements

If you use the eGates by mistake, you will need to see a Border Force officer before you leave the port to receive a stamp in your passport.

Use a passport rather than an ID card

From 1 October 2021, EU citizens can no longer use a national ID card to enter the UK if they do not have the right to live in the UK. Instead, EU citizens not settled in the UK are required to show a valid passport at the border.

However, there are some exceptions to the new rules. You can continue to use your EU, EEA or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025 if:

  • You hold settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • You have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme but have not yet received a decision on your application
  • You have an EU Settlement Scheme family permit
  • You have a Frontier Worker permit
  • You are an S2 Healthcare Visitor
  • You are a Swiss national and have a Service Provider from Switzerland visa

Even if you are eligible to continue using an ID card until 2025, choosing to use a passport instead could help you pass through the UK border faster. This is because Border Force officers will be able to process a passport more quickly than an ID card, and you will also have the option to use your EU passport at the automated eGates.

Use the FastTrack service

Depending on your arrival destination, you may have the option to upgrade your trip to gain access to a dedicated lane and a faster route through the border when you arrive in the UK.

Selected UK airports allow passengers to pay a small fee to ‘fast track’ passport control checks. This service is currently available at Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham and East Midlands airports.

The cost to use the FastTrack service may vary between airports, therefore passengers should check the relevant airport website for up to date fees.

Understanding UK immigration rules

Since the end of free movement between the UK and the EU, European citizens face stricter requirements when coming to the UK for work.

If you have questions about the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system and how the rules affect you, Smith Stone Walters is on hand to offer up to date advice and support. To speak to an immigration expert, please contact us today.

Share story
Back to top of page