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Every year, more than 16 million non-European passengers arrive in the UK and are required to fill out a landing card. This card has been in use since 1971 and it used to gather information about the passengers and their reason for travel. Under new plans to digitise the Border Force’s security checks, the landing cards are to be phased out and replaced with a new system. According to The Home Office, this won’t result in any loss of data and security checks will take place as normal without the landing cards.
The paper-based landing cards system costs the public roughly £3.6 million per year, but this is all set to change under new plans set out by Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis. According to Lewis, this will “improve the experience for arriving passengers so they get an even better welcome when they land in the UK.” He also outlined how these changes will “ensure Border Force staff stop dealing with outdated paperwork and can continue to focus on security and protecting the public.”
The plans to phase out the paper landing cards have already come into play in 21 ports throughout the UK. Instead of handing a landing card to a Border Agent, the process is now managed by the introduction of 232 e-gates. These e-gates have already seen 1 million passengers use them every week since they were introduced in June. These changes are all part of the ongoing Digital Services at the Border (DSAB) initiative which is aiming to facilitate legitimate travel while allowing Border Force officers to respond to threats.
In addition to the new e-gates, the Border Force has expanded its use of Advanced Passenger Information, with plans in place to receive 100% of incoming passenger data for all scheduled international flights. These moves have been welcomed by the airline industry, as they no longer have to purchase and distribute landing cards on arrival to the UK. It is expected that the changes will also be welcomed by passengers who will no longer have to search for a pen when they arrive at their destination.
It is also expected that these technological updates will ease the queues in airport landing halls. Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye praised the changes and said: “n post-Brexit Britain, it will be even more important to show we are open for business and make sure that we give investors, tourists and students a great welcome to our country.” The Home Office is opening a four-week consultation on the proposed changes and it is expected that the new system will be rolled out across all ports in autumn.