Passport eGates: Convenient or Confusing?

04 Sep 2019, 32 mins ago

Nationals of certain countries (known as ‘non-visa nationals’) do not require a visa in order to enter the UK as visitors. They do, however, have to be admitted at the UK border with permission to stay in the UK and will be subject to specific conditions during their visit.

It has often been the case that migrants have breached their visa conditions, overstayed their leave, or both, simply by not paying close enough attention to the stamp placed in their passport on entry. 

The majority of visitors would also be subject to a brief but informative interaction with a UK Border Force Officer at passport control to reinforce the meaning of that stamp and to remind them of the conditions to which they must adhere whilst in the UK namely – toremember to leave within six months, not to undertake any work, and not to claim any public funding. For those who did not read the stamps placed in their passports, this second buffer was put in place to ensure that all non-visa nationals were well informed and less likely to inadvertently overstay their leave. 

But what happens when the passport stamp is eliminated and the personal interaction with the UK Border Officials is discontinued?

On 20 May 2019 the Passport eGates were opened to nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. It is reported that one million people used the eGates within the first 6 weeks of the scheme opening.

The purpose of the scheme is to expedite entry to the UK for certain visa nationals by allowing them to simply scan their passport electronically. On successful scanning, they will be automatically granted leave as a Visitor with no subsequent stamp, paperwork or oral reminder issued regarding the conditions are attached to their leave. This is confirmed in the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) (Amendment) Order 2019 which enforces the scheme.

We can see here an interesting shift where the onus has now been placed on the individual to investigate the parameters of their visa conditions, with scarcely any information or guidance volunteered by the Home Office. In a situation where overstaying may have criminal implications, and where a negative blip on one’s immigration record could have dire consequences for future visa applications, is it fair to place this responsibility solely on individual migrants?

With over one million people using the eGates within the first six weeks of the scheme opening, it is clear that the process has resulted in a smoother and less stressful experience at the border for many. However, we have yet to see whether it will be necessary for the Home Office to provide clearer information and warnings regarding visa conditions for non-visa nationals. What is clear is that non-visa nationals will have to be more vigilant in the future in order to avoid immigration breaches and potential criminal repercussions.

If you have any queries or questions about non-visa national issues or matters relating to visit visa status, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2019