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Plans to make travel easier for more than 16 million non-European passengers who arrive in the UK each year have been announced.
Non-European travellers have been required to fill out a landing card with basic information about themselves and their travel since 1971. But under new proposals, the ‘outdated’ paper-based system, which costs the public around £3.6 million annually, will be replaced. The change comes as part of Border Force’s ongoing digital transformation of border controls.
All passengers from outside the EU will continue to be checked against police, security and immigration watch lists which are used to identify and confirm the status of every passenger arriving at UK airports.
The change will bring out various benefits, such as freeing up staff, enabling Border Force to better deploy their resources, and improving the experience for travellers as they no longer need to fill out the paper cards while on board. It is expected that this will shorten queue lengths and improve passenger flows, which has been welcomed by Heathrow airport.
The proposals are part of the Home Office’s ongoing transformation at the border which is enhancing Border Force’s ability to facilitate legitimate travel as well as ensure the security of the border.
The programme has already seen the introduction of 232 e-gates at 21 ports and since June has seen more than a million passengers use them each week, enabling Border Force officers to work on other security and intelligence matters.
The changes are in addition to the ongoing Digital Services at the Border (DSAB) programme, which is modernising technology at the border to improve intelligence gathering on goods and passengers and increase security.
It is expected the changes will come into effect in the autumn.
Brandon Lewis, Immigration Minister, said: “We are modernising border technology to ensure Border Force staff stop dealing with outdated paperwork and can continue to focus on security and protecting the public.
“In addition, this change will improve the experience for arriving passengers so they get an even better welcome when they land in the UK.”
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO, said: “We warmly welcome this proposed change which would give visitors to Britain an improved experience, whilst maintaining a secure border into the UK.
“In post-Brexit Britain, it will be even more important to show we are open for business and make sure that we give investors, tourists and students a great welcome to our country.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the new Immigration Minister and Border Force over the coming years to keep improving the passenger experience at the UK’s border.”