Massive passport change for Aussies
ANY Australian who has suffered the agonisingly long queue at border control at Heathrow Airport should be really excited about a small detail in the UK's budget.
In a surprise announcement, the UK Government says Australians arriving in the UK will now be able to fast-track through immigration from next year.
Chancellor to the Exchequer Philip Hammond said in the House of Commons overnight Australian travellers with electronically enabled passports will be able to use the e-passport gates at airports, such as London's Heathrow.
"We'll open the use of e-passport gates at Heathrow and other airports, currently only available to EEA (European Economic Area) nationals, to include visitors from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan," Mr Hammond said.
He said the budget would "send a message loud and clear to the rest of the world that Britain is open for business".
Australian High Commissioner to the UK George Brandis said Australia has been working on that change for some time and welcomed it as "great" news.
Currently, only passport holders from the UK, European Union, European Economic Area or Swiss citizens with biometric passports are able to use the much more preferable e-passport lanes.
Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe, with more than 78 million passengers passing through last year.
The new system means Australians no longer have to queue up for face-to-face contact with a border official, and allows them to move through the automated e-passport gates, similar to what we do in Australia.
While the development will dramatically cut the amount of time Aussies spend waiting at British airports, it also signals how the UK is looking to strengthen ties with its other Five Eyes intelligence partners - Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada - as it withdraws from the European Union from March 29.