News & Insights

Plans revealed for a new contactless border

The New Plan for Immigration: Migration and Border Control Strategy statement has revealed that the plan is to digitalise our border to make it quicker and easier for people to make their way into the UK.

With contactless border crossings set to become a big part of the future of the UK’s border, the Home Office have begun testing technologies that will allow passengers to undergo automated border screening without eGates or a border force officer and instead have their identity verified solely by technology. This new approach is said to ensure the security of the border remains a priority whilst making the process as quick and easy as possible. Part of this includes plans to pilot decreasing the minimum age for use of e-gates from 12 to 10 years old which will reduce the journey times for British families significantly.

Alongside this announcement, the Home Office have published an Independent Review of Border Force which was carried out in February 2022. To help complete this review the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, commissioned former Australian Immigration Minister (Alexander Downer) to help. His recommendations included:

  • a distinct identity and voice for Border Force
  • a new advisory board to consider the demands placed on Border Force
  • a single minister for Border Force
  • a refreshed learning strategy and improved career pathways and training for staff through a Border Force Academy
  • equity in the workforce

Pilot testing for the new system will begin in 2024 and aims to be the most effective border in the world (2025 UK Border Strategy). To introduce such a scheme will take time and the gradual rollout will be evident over the next few years. Currently, the Home Office’s priority is to increase the use of eGates amongst those who are already able to use them (including testing the effects of reducing the age boundary to use these gates), increasing the number of them available and an improvement of accessible information to ensure travellers know how to use the gates efficiently.

Only when they have improved this system will they look to introduce the automated entry to travellers not currently able to use the eGates. It is likely that this will start with people who already have immigration permission to travel in and out of the UK as currently their processing times can be longer.

Creating a more digitalised border should make it much more difficult for those who pose a threat to the UK to enter, whilst making it easier for those who contribute to our economy to have a smooth experience crossing our border. There is also a commitment to improve the customer service experience before customers apply to enter the country so all in all, the proposed changes should be an improvement of the current system and change the way we travel significantly.

If you have any questions about the immigration to the UK or UK visa routes more generally, please get in contact with our immigration team at [email protected]