UK Landing Cards Scrapped – What to Expect

Vital Information on UK Landing Cards from Best Immigration lawyers London

International passengers coming into the United Kingdom will no longer be required to fill out a UK landing card to be handed over to immigration alongside passports. The confirmation came from UK Border Force, emphasizing the effective date as 20th May 2019 when non-European passengers won’t have the need to complete the paper form onboard any aircraft before arrival in the UK.

This decision to have the landing card scrapped came after an announcement from the government of Britain that it was set to extend the use of e-gates at the United Kingdom borders to citizens of the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea and Singapore. Presently, the gates which main purpose is to scan e-passports are reserved exclusively for EEA (European Economic Area) national.

UK Landing Cards Scrapped – the Background

Right from 1971, travelers coming into the United Kingdom by air or sea from outside the EEA were expected to complete landing cards on arrival. The number of landing card issued annually is around 11 million which the cost is estimated at about £3.6 million to the public on an annual basis.

The major reason for issuing the cards is to get the basic information about the passengers as they arrive. This information includes some essential details like name, address in the United Kingdom as well as date of birth. The card also records other details like conditions of entry, reasons for travelling and what was said to the border staff upon arrival.

According to the Home Office, The United Kingdom is now lenient in matters concerning automated passenger clearance, permitting more nationalities to make use of ePassport gates than any other country in the world. By September 2018, ePassport gates were used across Britain and “juxtaposed controls” by 51.9 million passengers. The gates compare a passenger’s face to the digital image captured on their passports with the aid of facial recognition technology. This is done under close monitoring by the United Kingdom Border Force officers and when you get rejected at the gates, you will proceed to a manned passport check where your passport and identity will be thoroughly checked.

The people who are eligible to make use of the gates are adults from 18 years and above and who are traveling with a chipped or biometric passport. Another eligible set of people are those between the ages of 12 to 17 who are traveling in the company of an adult. 264 ePassport gates are currently in operation at 15 rail and air terminals in Britain.

Do I Need a Landing Card to Enter the UK?

The proposal to remove the ‘outdated’ UK landing cards first came in 2017 through an announcement by the Home Office as part of a “digital border transformation”. June 2018 saw the Home Office withdrawing the cards for seven countries, notable among them were the United States and Australia.

According to Paul Lincoln – Border Force director general, the withdrawal of the UK landing cards would allow the frontline officers to channel more of their time and skills to border security issues. They can take advantage of the freed time to closely monitor the activities of cohorts who present the highest risk of immigration abuse.

Another benefit from the withdrawal of the cards is that staff will be free to focus on interactions with the travelers. The department laid emphasis on the fact that landing cards are primarily meant for statistical purposes and never for routine security checks, with much of the information gathered by landing cards soon to be accessible digitally.

The new rules have been initiated to accommodate bigger massive numbers through British airports. The scrapping of the landing cards has been met with the concerns of union over weakened British borders and immigration controls.

What to expect at the UK border

Under the new rules, if you happen to be a citizen of a non-EEA country, while it will no longer be required of you to fill a UK landing card, you may still be requested to give your reasons for traveling by border officials. You will need to submit any documentation evidencing the purpose of your stay or visit, whether it relates to business, work, study or just for a visit.

Fingerprint of travelers with UK biometric visa will be checked at the border, your identity or passport will also be checked upon arrival to the UK.

If you are a member of the Registered Traveler Service, you are free to use the UK/EEA channels or automatic e-passport gates if your passport happens to have a ‘chip’. They are planning on extending the use of e-gates to nationals from The United States, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea and Singapore from June 2019.

Business travelers to the UK

Brexit uncertainty, the onset of the European Union settlement scheme and a forthcoming revamping of the United Kingdom immigration regime are currently applying more pressure on border checks to confirm traveler status against the new rules as they currently apply.

With rising dependency on the online systems to verify passengers’ permissions to board aircraft to Britain and to come into the country, business travelers are advised to make sure that they have secured the proper leave to carry out their business activities while in Britain (They shouldn’t just assume that a business visitor visa applies), and that they should arm themselves with adequate documentation to prove their status in order to avoid delays or issues at the border.

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