Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Registered Traveller

The UK and Ireland have their own common travel area and are not part of Schengen.  Every time that I land in the UK, along with every other non-EU traveller, I have to complete a landing card.

You have to provide your passport details, along with how long you will be in the UK, where you're staying, and your incoming flight or ferry information.

What has always driven me crazy is that I've had to complete this for a connecting flight in London Stansted.  Ryanair doesn't have connecting flights so when I fly Brno-Stansted-Dublin I have to go through UK immigration, get a stamp in my passport, pick up my bag and then proceed to departures so that I can drop off my bag for the next flight and go through security again.

In these cases, I write that my address in the UK is "Stansted Airport" and that my stay in the UK is "4 hours".  Sometimes the immigration officer writes "IT" for "in transit" over the stamp in my passport.  All of this stamping takes up valuable space in my passport.

These paper landing cards don't make much sense in a digital age and they cost the UK £3,6 million (+$4.7 million) per year.  Sometime this fall, the UK is supposed to scrap these cards.

I've been accepted as a Registered Traveller which will not let me get through the UK border much faster.  The service costs £70 ($92) to apply and £50 each year to renew.  You have to be at least 18 years old, have an ePassport, and have visited the UK at least four times in the last 24 months.

The benefits of being a registered traveller is that now when I arrive in the UK, I (a) no longer have to complete a landing card, and (b) I get to use the arrival lines reserved for UK/EU citizens.  No more having to use the non-EU lanes which all require a conversation with an immigration officer and tend to take much longer to get through.  There's also no fingerprint check.

I'll get to use the UK lines at the following airports:  Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted, and Manchester.  At all other UK airports I will still need to use the non-EU arrival lines.  But these are the major airports so not a big deal.  It will also work at the Eurostar terminals in Brussels, Lille, and Paris.

The registered traveller service is open to citizens of Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Uruguay, and the USA.

I understood that I should have received some kind of card but they ran out.  Instead a sticker was placed on the back of my passport.

If only Ireland would come up with something similar because I get annoyed with the third degree every time I arrive at Dublin Airport.

Update: 20 May 2019 - Americans get to use the ePassport gates so my registered traveller status is no longer needed.

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