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eGates at all UK airports now open to 10 and 11 year olds

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Following a successful trial at the major London airports over the spring, the Government has opened up all eGates to 10 and 11 year olds.

The change kicked in from yesterday so if you are currently away you will be able to take advantage on your return.

Over 400,000 10 and 11 year olds are expected to use the eGates this year which, when you include their parents and any other siblings, is likely to see well over 1 million people diverted away from the manned desks.

The issue with younger children is matching the photograph in their passport to a scan of their face. Whilst a child passport is only valid for five years vs 10 years for an adult passport, this can still lead to a huge difference between the photograph and how the child currently looks.

The Government has clearly decided that the level of passport rejection by eGates due to a failure to match the image is manageable.

A secondary issue, of course, is that the average child should be capable of following the instructions to use the eGates. Again, it seems that a 10 year old is now seen as old enough to follow the prompts.

The UK processes more passengers through eGates than any country, apparently. 15 air and rail ports currently use eGates with a total of 293 eGates in operation (well, installed – it’s rare to see them all ‘operational’!). Over 70 million passengers pass through eGates each year.

eGates are currently restricted to:

  • British citizens
  • nationals of an EU country, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the USA
  • members of the Registered Traveller Service

Comments (54)

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  • Kieran says:

    I’m not expecting with an 18 month old to be allowed through the e-gates but they need to actually staff the manual gates. Last time we arrived at LHR we manged to time our arrival to coincide with a Disneyland flight. There was one desk open. Chaos. The poor RoW queue had maybe two desks open, the queue snaked down the corridors.

    (This was not during a strike period)

  • Yvo says:

    The trials at Heathrow and Gatwick (our child is 11) have been a game changer for us in the last year, absolutely brilliant.

    I haven’t seen a child unable to use them, mine has probably been through them in seconds 8/9 times.

    • JDB says:

      The children are probably more adept at using the e-gates. It’s astonishing how many adults one can observe wearing hats/caps or glasses or putting their passports in the wrong way round and then of course loudly criticising the gate staff and machines as they walk back out.

      • Ruralite says:

        2 children not adept at using when we returned to T2 a couple of weeks ago. Accompanying adult, waiting behind them, went to help children only to be told to stand back by border official on gate duty who had to then help each child individually. Luckily it wasn’t a busy time for arrivals and others, like us, went through the remaining gates that were open without issue. I will reserve judgement on how well it will work until I’ve been through at busy times when a few returning package holiday flights have offloaded together in school holidays!

  • Max says:

    I had to queue for 3 hours at JFK recently. It was complete chaos. Why are US citizens allowed through British eGates but the agreement isn’t reciprocal?

    • John says:

      Many things are not reciprocal when it comes to the US

    • Johyu5 says:

      I agree with the sentiment as it is a bit infuriating to have eGates clogged up by select nationalities (the most ironic of which are EU citizens).

      Nevertheless, I accept this fact because I know, ultimately, this is a declining island with delusions of grandeur and a nostalgia for a period where its stead in the world mattered – this no longer exists, and hasn’t been helped either by the monumentally idiotic decision to leave the EU.

      Reciprocity is only a given when you have leverage…the US (and the EU for that matter) are behemoths next to the UK, and will have no interest in feeding the world-beating exceptionalism of an island nation.

      • navara says:

        That monumental decision happened in 2016 move on

        • Johyu5 says:

          I have, especially as I have 4 nationalities (incl. UK and an EU one), so I relish seeing Brits queue up at eGates in Europe. Other consequences (economic mostly) from said decision are inescapable unfortunately.

          I only bring the topic up when I see idiotic comments overestimating the UK’s clout. People need to be reminded in perpetuity. Also, when people complain about strikes/shortages of staff/general decline I’ll do the same.

          Happy queueing!

    • Dev says:

      Because we are a cheap country and can’t be arsed to have more humans at the border … automation = nothing to see, no refusals, no removals leading to less paperwork!

      Do you really think some of poorest EU nationals will come over for a 6 month holiday and not work illegally! Well, who knows as they are funnelled through the é gates and you can’t test their credibility anymore…

      • Nick says:

        This is exactly the right answer. There’s no reciprocity in it at all, it’s just that we can’t be bothered to pay for a staffed border so use machines instead. Makes a mockery of the far right ‘control our borders!’ refrain really.

        As for JFK, I didn’t have to show my passport last month, they did it all with facial recognition. Barely even had to stop walking, just one second while the kiosk snapped a photo. Admittedly GE, but it will extend to other repeat visitors soon enough.

        • AJA says:

          @Dev and @Nick The mistake is to assume that no one is watching. Using the eGates doesn’t mean no one is overseeing people using the eGates. There’s just fewer staff needed to do so which is the “benefit” of technology.

          I think your JFK experience is another example of use of technology and the need for fewer border staff. If you’re so anti the cut in staff numbers wouldn’t you prefer to avoid using GE and queue 3 hours to see a physical staff member?

          And eventually when the EU finally gets its Esta equivalent up and running we will be allowed to use their eGates too.

  • HH says:

    I hope this means more agents are freed up to man the Seek Assistance desks… I’m in the worst category of all – my UK passport is flagged for rejection by UK eGates and border agents have enigmatically told me that will remain the case for the foreseeable future, despite the issue not being a name match or a faulty chip, and there’s nothing I can do about it!

    • lumma says:

      Can’t you get a new passport?

      • pigeon says:

        No, HH matches a name on a watchlist, and until the other HH is caught by police, our HH will keep on being blocked.

        • Lady London says:

          In the US there is a “redress” application which the affected person can submit if they are unlucky enough to be constantly incorrectly flagged for this type of reason.

          Does the UK not have something similar? Seems harsh, if not

          • Alan says:

            Nope, it doesn’t. I’m in the same situation and it’s really annoying. In comparison entering the US (I have GE) is ludicrously fast!

      • pigeon says:

        (Broken chip can be confirmed by using an iPhone app, name on the watchlist – they are not allowed to say)

        • John says:

          Except some agents will say your name is similar to someone needing further investigation, and some will say other things. Either some agents are lying or making things up, or the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing

  • Backpacker says:

    Something needs to change for families with young kids at UK airports – every time I arrive with kids it is a 1-2 hour wait to be seen by (a single person on duty only) at the manned desk. E-gates usually 5 mins if travelling without kids. Even returning at the end of school holidays the UKBA told me it was “unexpected demand”.
    As always, Broken Britian does not want to pay for Border staff…

    • jjoohhnn says:

      It seems experiences vary widly. I arrived at T3 with my 4yr old daughter in May at about 9am and the queue for the UK manned desk was shorter and we got through quicker than the e-gates.

  • NFH says:

    Using e-gates can be as annoying as using supermarket self-service checkouts, particularly if there’s an issue and you get trapped. I just go straight to the manned desks with my Irish passport card, although I would like to have the option to use it in e-gates.

  • NFH says:

    It’s all about cost saving for UK Border Force as opposed to convenience for passengers. According to the Home Office’s impact assessment of ceasing to accept EU/EEA/CH visitors’ identity cards with effect from 1st October 2021, “the cost saving of a passenger being processed through an e-Gate rather than the PCP desk is estimated to be £0.75 per passenger (2021 prices)“.

    • pigeon says:

      Well, if I’m paying £185 in air passenger duty, then the government can spend 75p to make sure immigration runs smoothly.

      • John says:

        Except APD is only on departures and e-gates are only used on arrivals

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