The UK government has scrapped the requirement of filling out landing cards by international travellers coming to the UK from countries like India, as part of a series of measures aimed at a "smoother" entry into Britain.
Airline passengers from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) landing at UK airports from Monday will no longer be required to complete the forms to be handed to immigration officers along with passports.
"The government is removing the need for all non-EEA travellers to fill in landing cards upon arrival in the UK, making for a smoother entry to the country. The move will reduce the burden on passengers while maintaining the UK's border security, as exactly the same security checks will be in place," the UK Home Office said in a statement.
"As airports prepare for the busy summer months, we know that no one likes to wait long in a queue for passport control. That is why airports work closely with Border Force to ensure the border is welcoming, while maintaining the UK's security," noted Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the UK''s Airport Operators Association.
However, India is not yet among a list of "low risk" countries which can now access the ePassport gates on landing in the UK. Visitors from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US will be able to use these automated gates at ports across the UK from this week.
"Our new global immigration and border system will improve security and fluidity for passengers coming to visit or work in the UK. Expanding the use of ePassport gates is a key part of this and allows us to improve the passenger experience of those arriving in the UK while keeping our border secure," said UK home secretary Sajid Javid.
"The new system will help to drive our economy, cement our reputation as a global leader and send a clear message to the world - the UK is open for business," he said.
ePassport gates have already been available to British and European Union (EU) nationals since 2008, who will remain eligible to use them even once the UK leaves the EU.
"Enabling more passengers to use ePassport gates is an important next step in our joint efforts to enhance the welcome at the border. It will demonstrate the UK is open for business, tourism and visiting friends and relatives. It will also free up Border Force officers for other duties, improving the experience of all passengers," added Karen Dee of the Airport Operators Association, a trade body representing the interests of airports around the UK.
The Home Office claims that Britain is a world leader in automated passenger clearance, allowing more nationalities to use ePassport gates than anywhere else. In the year ending September 2018, 51.9 million passengers used them across the UK and "juxtaposed controls".
The gates use facial recognition technology to compare the passenger''s face to the digital image recorded in their passport. They are monitored by UK Border Force officers and anyone rejected at the gates will be sent to a manned passport check to have their identity and passport checked.
The gates can be used by those aged 18 and over, and who are travelling using a biometric or "chipped" passport. Those aged 12 to 17, and who are accompanied by an adult, are also able to use them.
There are currently 264 ePassport gates in operation at 15 air and rail terminals in the UK.