Frequent travelers to the United Kingdom know that one of the most unpleasant parts of the journey is the long wait to get through the immigration lines for non-European Union citizens. The waits can be particularly long at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, where US citizens frequently have to stand in line for an hour or more to get through UK border control. But there is good news for frequent visitors to Britain’s green and pleasant land: the UK has launched the “Registered Traveller Service” to speed members through British immigration procedures.
The new Registered Traveller Service is open to citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan who are age 18 or older. Applicants must either hold a UK visa (such as a work or student visa) or must have visited the UK four or more times within the last 52 weeks. The program is likely to appeal to businesspeople who need to visit Britain regularly, as well as to people who travel to the UK frequently to visit family and friends. The US government has begun to alert Global Entry members to the availability of the UK Registered Traveller Service.
The Registered Traveller Service offers a number of benefits, all aimed at getting program members through UK immigration in record time.
- Members do not need to fill out a landing card.
- Members can use ePassport Gates upon arrival to Britain. ePassport Gates are similar the the Automated Passport Kiosks now found at many US airports, and allow travelers to check themselves in rather than having to go to a desk staffed by a UK Border Force agent. ePassport Gates are available at many British airports, including Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Luton, and Stansted in London, as well as the international airports in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Manchester.
- Members can use a dedicated Registered Traveller entry line at London’s Gatwick Airport, or may use the UK/European Union Citizen entry lines at all other UK entry points.
- Members may obtain expedited preclearance before boarding a UK-bound EuroStar train at the train terminals in Brussels, Paris, or Lille.
If you are interested in this program, you may apply online on the UK government website. Membership costs £70 a year, approximately $107 in US currency. If you need to renew your passport while enrolled in the Registered Traveller Service, it will cost an additional £20 to update your passport details. Membership requests are typically granted within 10 business days of application.