Eligible passengers from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States will be able to use the ePassport gates at UK airports, and at Brussels and Paris Eurostar terminals, according to a government announcement.

Whitehall also announced that, to coincide with the digital expansion programme, the government will begin to abolish landing cards for non-EEA travellers. Citizens of the above countries will be exempt from landing card requirements from June this year.

ePassport gates use facial recognition technology to verify individuals against data stored on their biometric passports. They are installed at most major UK airports, including Heathrow (Terminals 2-5), Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Stansted.

Hailing the news, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: “The expanded access to ePassport gates and the withdrawal of landing cards is part of our work to transform the UK’s border, providing a quicker, seamless experience for passengers that is built around digital systems.

“These changes will deliver an improved arrival experience and is further encouragement for people who boost our economy through tourism and business to travel to the UK.”

All passengers arriving at UK ports and airports will continue to be subject to full identity and security checks, said the government.

  •  In the US, controversy is growing over the unregulated use of facial recognition technology. Microsoft has urged the government to bring in legislation to prevent the use of such systems in citizen surveillance. More on this in a separate report.