Home Office plans to go paperless during the autumn for checks at immigration counters
Immigration officers are likely to stop asking for landing cards from non-Europeans and depend completely on digital records within the next few months.
The Home Office has announced plans to drop the use of the cards during the autumn, following a four-week consultation with carriers, airports and port authorities.
Its announcement conveys the decision as a done deal with the consultation focused on the use of statistics.
The department said the move is being made as part of the digital transformation of border controls, and that the Border Force will use a variety of watch lists to check the identity and status of passengers arriving at UK airports.
Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said: “We are modernising border technology to ensure Border Force staff stop dealing with outdated paperwork and can continue to focus on security and protecting the public.
“In addition, this change will improve the experience for arriving passengers so they get an even better welcome when they land in the UK. The changes will also free up staff and enable Border Force to better deploy their resources.”
He also predicted that the move will led to shorter queues at airports.
The Border Force’s digital programme has already involved the introduction of 232 e-gates at 21 ports, with more than a million passengers now using them each week. The Home Office said this has enabled the force’s officers to work on other security and intelligence matters.
Over the past year the department has taken other steps in the digitisation of immigration controls. These include completing the roll out of the digital visa application process and increasing the use of Advance Passenger Information, receiving data on all scheduled flights on international journeys to and from the UK.
Non-European travellers – about 16 million of whom arrive in the UK every year – have been required to fill out a landing card with basic information about themselves and their travel since 1971.
The changes are in addition to the ongoing Digital Services at the Border (DSAB) programme, aimed at improving intelligence gathering.
Image by Danny Howard, CC BY 2.0 through flickr