I have had Global Entry (a fast pass through US Airport Immigration and Customs), for years.  I remember the first time I landed in London after I got my Global Entry, I thought that must mean I could use the fast track lane.  Well no, although the name of the program is “Global” Entry it is only available in the United States.  Now though, there is an option for non-UK citizens that want to go through airport immigration faster.  The UK has expanded their UK Registered Traveller Program to include non-UK citizens who meet certain criteria.  

UK Border Crossing

The UK Border is one of the most strict I have gone through.  You may remember my friend Steve who is an American citizen, who was deported back to the US because he didn’t have a Visa.  I had become accustomed to being grilled each time I entered the UK.  I made sure to be prepared to show my itinerary to confirm that I had onward travel.  

 

The Thames and Houses of Parliament - "UK Registered Traveller: Speed through Airport Immigration" - Two Traveling Texans
The Thames and Houses of Parliament

Recently though, I noticed a change in the airport immigration officers.  I was still going to England frequently but I didn’t get a lot of questions like I had before.  Instead, they started trying to sell me on the UK Registered Traveller program telling me how I would save time.

UK Registered Traveller Application Process

I met the criteria to apply for the UK Registered Traveller program because I had traveled to the UK more than 4 times in the last 24 months and I am from one of the eligible countries.  Anyone who has a UK Visa can also apply.  It just costs £70, and if you are not accepted you get £50 back.

It is more expensive than Global Entry.  Global Entry costs $85 for five years and also includes the TSA precheck program.  The TSA precheck program helps you get through security at participating US airports.  On the plus side, the application process for the UK Registered Traveller program is much simpler and faster than what I had to go through for the US Global Entry service.

The first step is an online questionnaire where you answer mostly basic questions about yourself, like if you have been convicted of any crimes.  The trickiest question is the reason for your travel to the UK.  You are only allowed to select one.  I decided to choose General Visitor.  Completing the form took me about 5 minutes.  Once you submit, then you get an email saying you will hear back in 10 days.

The Shard and the Tower Bridge in the background. - "UK Registered Traveller: Speed through Airport Immigration" - Two Traveling Texans
The Shard and the Tower Bridge in the background.

Five days later I got an email with provisional acceptance.  I was instructed to follow the normal procedure, including filling out a landing card, the next time I landed at one of the airports that participates in the Registered Traveller program.  If the airport immigration officer is satisfied that I meet the criteria then I would get my card.

So the next time I landed at Heathrow, I patiently waited in the All Passports line with my landing card and a printed copy of the email showing I had been provisionally accepted.  When I reached the officer, I explained that I wanted to join the Registered Traveller program.  She didn’t really ask me any additional questions.  She did not give me a card though because they had run out! So she signed/stamped my paper and said it was input into the system so the next time I landed I could go in the shorter line.  She told me to keep my paper just in case.  I had my doubts if this would really work.

Using the UK Registered Traveller Program

The next time I landed at Heathrow, I went to the e-gates line since I have a chip in my passport.  I had never used it before.  As I got closer it seemed like a lot of people were having issues with the e-gates.  When it was my turn, of course, it would not read my passport, so I had to go and see the officer too.

I explained that I am a UK Register Traveller but I don’t have a card because they were out.  When I asked if I could get a card, they told me if I wanted a card I would need to go to the All Passports line.  I really didn’t have time for that.  However, they could tell that I was a Registered Traveller so I guess I didn’t need it.

The next time I landed in the UK, I flew into Stansted airport and my passport worked fine at the e-gates.  It really was much easier, shorter, and faster than the usual line I would have to stand in.  Plus, no need to take to a border control officer.

I did have one little hiccup though.  When I flew into Manchester, I walked straight to the e-gate line.  This time there was a man checking passports to enter the queue.  He saw I had a US passport and I explained that I was a UK Registered Traveller.  He asked for my card.  I explained that when I got approved they were out so I never got one.  He did let me through but told me that I needed to ask for a card at the desk.  So now, I do have a card!

You are able to use the e-gates with the UK Registered Traveller Program service at most UK airports including Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Manchester, and Stansted.  It is also nice that the program is available at Eurostar terminals at Brussels, Lille, and Paris.

The Shard and the Tower Bridge in the background. - "UK Registered Traveller: Speed through Airport Immigration" - Two Traveling Texans
The Shard and the Tower Bridge in the background.

Is the UK Registered Traveller Program Worth it?

So do I think the UK Registered Traveller program is worth it? The only negative really is the price.  The process to apply is easy and it will save you time going through airport immigration when you land.  It does not come cheap though.  If you do business travel to England, you may be able to convince your company to cover the expense.  Then it’s a no brainer – do it.

If you are going to have to pay for it yourself, you should consider how many times you will be going to the UK in one year and then divide the first year fee by that amount.  So if you are going 7 times, then it will cost you 10 GBP each visit.  That’s not terrible, but I am guessing most of you are not going to be going to the UK that frequently.

I decided to get it since I figured I would probably be going to the UK around 6 times.  I was also getting tired of the questioning by the immigration officer, so I figured it would also help relieve a little stress.  

After the first year, it costs £50 to renew your UK Registered Traveller each year.  I have not decided if I will renew mine.   What do you think of the UK Registered Traveller Program? Do you think it is worth the cost?

Anisa

Expert Tips for UK Airport Immigration:

  • Try to get your work to cover the cost of the UK Registered Traveller Program.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, worst case they say no.
  • You do not need to have the actual card to go through the e-passport gates, but you do need a passport with a chip.

 

The Weekly Postcard

We are happy to co-host the Weekly Postcard Linkup.  Everyone is invited to join us and share their travel blog posts here beginning at 12 p.m. (PST) / 8 p.m. (GMT) Friday, May 19th.  If you would like a reminder email when the linkup opens, you can sign up to get one here.

For those of you that have not done a linkup before, please check out our frequently asked questions about the Weekly Postcard.  Feel free to reach out to us if you have other questions.  You can also check out last week’s posts here. Happy Travels!

Two Traveling Texans

 

UK Registered Traveller: Speed through Airport Immigration
Find out if it is worth it for a US citizen to join the UK Registered Traveller Program to get through airport immigration. | Air Travel
Tagged on:         

16 thoughts on “UK Registered Traveller: Speed through Airport Immigration

  • I didn’t know that UK had a registered traveller programme. I hope more countries will start doing something similar! The last thing you want after a flight is the queues at immigration. Thanks for sharing. #theweeklypostcard

  • Sounds useful, but like you mentioned you’d have to spend a lot of time going through customs to make the cost worth it. I am still trying to decide to get TSA preCheck here in the US or not. Some people say that the TSA preCheck lines can get longer than the normal line! Don’t know if that’s exaggeration or not. Thanks for hosting #TheWeeklyPostcard 🙂

    1. Staci – I do like precheck. For me I also like that you don’t have to take out your computer, etc. So even if the lines were longer than the regular line (I don’t think I have seen that but I guess it could happen), it moves faster. There are a few airlines (like British Airways) that don’t participate though.

      I think it’s reasonably priced too because you get it free with Global Entry ($85 for 5 years). My credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserve) covers the cost too. I think there are other credit cards that do it as well.

  • We have considered getting the Global Entry pass, although at the moment, we don’t fly that often. About once a year. So I’m not sure if it’s worth it, but we do plan to start traveling more soon, so maybe then! #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  • We also have Global Entry, but I didn’t find that too useful. We can only use it when we return to the US and by now so many people also have it, that it’s always a line even there. The UK Registered Traveler seems like a good program if you travel frequently to the UK. However, I am not aware that American citizens need a Visa to enter the UK. I never needed one and I was never asked any questions when entering the UK. They just looked at us, stamped our passports and that was it. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Anda – In general US citizens don’t need visas to enter the UK. However there are exceptions like business for more than two weeks as an example. I just know this because my friend was not allowed to enter, detained, and then sent back to the US. The agents just try to make sure you are not one of those exceptions.

  • Those immigration officers are horrendous. I remember being questioned for ages about the length of stay, funding my stay etc. I felt as though they begrudgingly allowed me into the UK. It put me off visiting again for over 15 years.

  • The UK border can be frustrating but they are thorough (like the U.S.). I don’t have any problem now since I have a residence permit card – I can use the UK line as long as I am traveling with Laurence. They have to process me in every time though but are very friendly now that I am a resident, not so before. Same in the U.S. – they are quite friendly with Laurence when he is with me but they used to grill him. I never signed up for Global Entry although it came for free with my credit card – I normally travel with Laurence so it wouldn’t really save us any time.

    1. Jessica – I didn’t realize you were American. I do appreciate the border officers have a tough job. All the stories just really stress me out. I know now there is also an option for non- US citizens to get global entry too. I don’t know much about it though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

new