I have had Global Entry (a fast pass through US Airport Immigration and Customs), for years. 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 when you are entering 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. In this post, I will tell you how the UK Registered Traveller Program works and my experience with it.
Update: As part of the 2019 budget the UK Government announced that beginning some time in mid-2019, passport holders from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan will be able to use automated egates when entering the United Kingdom without having to join the Registered Traveller program. Read more about the announcement here.
UK Border Crossing
As an American traveller, 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 during the passport check each time I entered the UK. I made sure to be prepared to show my itinerary to confirm that I had onward travel. An immigration fast pass would come in handy!
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. It’s kind of like the UK’s version of Global Entry.
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 $100 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.
From Provisional Acceptance to Approval for the UK Registered Traveller Program
Five days later I got an email with provisional acceptance. I was instructed to follow the normal immigration procedure, including filling out a UK landing card, the next time I traveled to 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 London 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. I did not get a card though because they had run out! After she signed/stamped my paper, she told me 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-passport 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 talk to a border control officer.
I did have one little hiccup though. When I flew into Manchester, I walked straight to the line for the automated passport gates. This time there was a man checking passports to enter the queue at the airport border control. 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 UK Registered Traveller Card!
Locations You Can Use E-Passport Gates
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.
Is the UK Registered Traveller Program Worth it?
As a frequent traveller 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.
Given the announcement that citizens from select countries will be able to enter the UK through egates without joining the program beginning sometime in 2019, I don’t recommend that US citizens join the UK Registered Traveller Program at this time unless you have multiple trips to the UK early in 2019.
UK Registered Traveller Program Renewal
After the first year, it costs £50 to renew your UK Registered Traveller each year. If you change your passport you have to pay another fee of £20 to have your records updated.
Update: My UK Registered Traveller Program expired in March 2018 and I decided not to renew it. I think £50 is too much to pay for the convenience. If I change my mind in the future, I will have to pay £70 to rejoin.
UK Registered Traveller Review
Overall, I did enjoy my time as a UK Registered Traveller. The application process was quick and easy. It definitely made my entry into the UK faster and less stressful. It is expensive though. If you are on a budget, it is probably not worth it. If you can get your work to pay for it or don’t mind covering the cost, it is a time saver!
What do you think of the UK Registered Traveller Program? Do you think it is worth the cost?
Expert Tips for UK Registered Traveller Program
- US Citizens may apply for the UK Registered Traveller Program if you have traveled to the UK at least 4 times in the last 24 months.
- 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.
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