International passengers arriving in Britain no longer have to complete a UK landing card.
UK Border Force confirmed that with effect from 20th May 2019, non-European passengers will no longer need to fill out the paper form on-board an aircraft prior to arrival in the country.
Since 1971, passengers arriving by air or sea from outside the European Economic Area had to fill in landing cards when attempting to enter the country. Around 11 million are issued every year at a cost to the public of around £3.6 million a year.
The cards were used to provide basic information about the traveller, including their name, date of birth and address in the UK. They were also used to record reasons for travel, conditions of entry and what was said to border staff on arrival.
Proposals to withdraw the ‘outdated’ UK landing cards were first announced by the Home Office in 2017 as part of a “digital border transformation”. In June 2018, the Home Office withdrew the cards for seven countries, including the US and Australia.
Border Force director general Paul Lincoln said withdrawing the UK landing card would “enable frontline officers to focus their skills and time on border security issues and on cohorts who present the greatest risk of immigration abuse” and that the new rules have been introduced to accommodate greater passenger numbers through UK airports.
The department emphasised that landing cards are primarily used for statistical purposes and not for routine security checks, with much of the data collected by landing cards soon to be available digitally.
The move has been met with union concerns over weakened UK borders and immigration controls.
A spokesperson for the Immigration Service Union (ISU) also expressed criticism “ that this measure was introduced so suddenly and without the technological support staff that had been promised.” She also warned that impact would be felt by UKVI enforcement in a small number of cases where landing cards are relied on as evidence.
What to expect at the UK border
Under the new rules, if you’re a national of a non-EEA country, while you will no longer be required to complete a UK landing card, you may still be asked by border officials to give your reasons for travel. Have to hand any documentation that will confirm the purpose of your visit or stay, whether it relates to work, business, studying or visiting.
If you are travelling with a UK biometric visa, your fingerprints will be checked at the border.
Your passport or identity card will also be checked when you arrive into the UK.
Members of the Registered Traveller Service can use the UK/EEA channels or automatic e-passport gates if your passport has a ‘chip’. The use of e-gates is also being extended to citizens of the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea from June 2019.
Business travellers to the UK
Brexit uncertainty, the introduction of the EU settlement scheme and an imminent overhaul of the UK immigration regime are putting more pressure on border checks to verify traveller status against the rules as they currently apply.
With increasing reliance on online systems to confirm passengers’ permissions to board aircraft to the UK and to enter the country, business travellers are being advised to ensure they have secured the appropriate leave to carry out their intended activities while in the UK (don’t just assume a business visitor visa applies), and that they take with them in paper form sufficient documentation to evidence their status to avoid issues or delays at the border.
DavidsonMorris are specialist business immigration advisers. We support HR, mobility teams and travelling employees with all aspects of UK business travel and organisational mobility. If you have a query, or you or one of your employees are facing an issue at the border, contact us.