E-passport gates at Heathrow are a way to get through the customs check point at the airport without waiting in the often long and notoriously tedious line for a traditional customs check. The gates scan a traveller’s passport and confirm her identity via facial scanning, and then an automated door opens up to release the traveller from the customs area. This service is only available to UK residents and residents of countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), however. All other foreigners still have to go through the conventional customs process when entering the United Kingdom via Heathrow. Countries in the EEA include Austria, Denmark, Greece, and Italy. The best part of the program for travellers who qualify is that no special enrolment is required. If your passport is eligible to go through an e-passport gate, you can use the gate without any special forms or additional approval.
What do you need for E-Passport Gates at Heathrow?
To find out if your passport qualifies you to to use an e-passport gate at Heathrow, first find out if the country from which your passport is issued is a member of the EEA. There are 30 countries in total that are allowed to use the e-passport service. If your country is a member of the EEA, look for the international e-passport symbol on your passport, located on the bottom of the booklet’s front cover. The symbol is a gold rectangle with a circle in the center. A straight line leads from the left and right side of the circle to the outside of the rectangle. If you meet both of these qualifications, your passport should work in the e-passport gate. Keep in mind, however, that you must be at least 18 years old to use the e-passport gates.
How the System Recognizes You
Your passport has a chip inside that holds all of your personal data, including the passport photo on the information page of your booklet. Once you scan your passport into an e-passport gate at the airport, the facial recognition system scans your face and compares it to the passport photo embedded on your booklet’s data chip. The facial scan is what makes the system safe — if your passport is stolen, the thief should not be able to use it to gain entry into the UK via an e-passport gate at Heathrow, because the facial recognition will fail.
How to use E-Passport Gates at Heathrow?
If you qualify for e-passport entry, join the appropriate queue at the customs area. The gates are open during most busy times, but may not be in operation at all times. An e-passport gate has two phases, first the passport scan and then the facial scan. Put the information page of your passport face down in the passport scanner, so that it can read your data. The machine will let you know when to remove the booklet from the scanner — don’t remove your passport too soon, or it won’t have time to read your information. Once you’re told to remove the passport, step forward into the booth with your feet on the marked spaces. This is when the facial recognition phase takes place — the glass doors will open and let you pass through once you’re in the clear to proceed.
What to Do If It Doesn’t Work
Sometimes, the facial recognition scan will not recognize you as the passport holder. You can reduce the likelihood of this problem by removing your glasses before you enter the facial recognition scan. Likewise, don’t wear a hat or anything that obstructs your face. If the system still doesn’t work, you will have to approach a customs agent and go through a manual check before you exit the customs area.