London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have a new entry system at Arrivals (Passport Control) – electronic gates (eGates), unmanned, to speed up the arrivals queue for nationals from EU countries and from seven additional countries arriving into the UK. I’m not sure whether there are eGates at Manchester, Birmingham and Stanstead yet, but if there are not now, there might be in the near future.
From the government website:
The UK Government has expanded the use of eGates at Heathrow to nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America. the majority of nationals from these seven countries will be eligible to use eGates and won’t need to complete a landing card.
Automated eGates offer an alternative to conventional passport checks.
Simply scan your e-passport at the barrier. The system runs a face-recognition check against the chip in your passport, then if you’re eligible to enter the UK the gate opens automatically – all in a matter of seconds.
For everyone who has ever stood in line for an hour at the airport to show their passport to an immigration officer, this is great news, however there has been some confusion, which has caused problems for people holding Tier 5 Certificates of Sponsorship, i.e. entertainers and sportspeople from the aforementioned ‘new’ countries. If you go through the eGates, you won’t have your passport stamped and your Certificate of Sponsorship activated, so even though you’ve done everything right up to that point, without your CoS being activated, you still are not legal to work in the UK.
All Tier 5 CoS holders MUST go through one of the manned gates and – whether the Border Force officer asks or not – you MUST declare that you are coming in to the UK to work and that you have a Certificate of Sponsorship. Unless you do that, your CoS will show up as UNUSED on the government databse (the Sponsor Management System) and you will not be legal to work in the UK.
The expansion of the eGate system is new, and initially there was no signage to direct CoS holders appropriately. Not only that, but airport staff were incorrectly pushing everyone from the seven ‘new’ countries to the eGates. Now apparently there is signage to direct CoS holders to the manned gates, but it’s not as clear as it might be. If you are a CoS holder it’s your responsibility to make sure you go through a manned gate and SHOW YOUR CoS to the Border Force officer and get your correct passport stamp. If airport staff try to direct you to the unmanned gate, make sure you tell them you have a Tier 5 CoS.
You have been warned!