The notoriously long passport lines at Heathrow Airport in London may soon get a bit shorter — provided you’re from one of five countries.
In the 2019 budget presented to the House of Commons on October 29, 2018, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond proposed adding more e-passport gates at airports throughout the United Kingdom.
“We’ll open the use of e-passport gates at Heathrow and other airports, currently only available to EEA nationals, to include visitors from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan,” he said in his speech.
The EEA, or European Economic Area, includes European Union member countries as well as a few others — Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
Much of Hammond’s budget speech addressed the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, more commonly referred to as “Brexit.” Many people have become concerned that Brexit will make entering the UK by air more complicated.
The budget should kick in by April 2019, if you want to get your vacation planning in order.
The news also comes on the heels of an ambitious plan to make Heathrow the world’s biggest airport by the year 2030.
Of the five nations listed by Hammond, three — Canada, Australia and New Zealand — are members of the Commonwealth.
According to the Henley Index, a group which tracks global travel access, a Japanese passport is the most powerful one in the world.
Travelers holding Japanese passports can enter a whopping 190 countries without needing a visa or any additional paperwork. The United States and United Kingdom tied for fifth place on the list.
While Hammond’s announcement is good news for some travelers heading to the UK, there’s plenty in the 120-page document that affects things for Brits themselves of course.
Among the items discussed were an increase in the national living wage to £8.21 ($10.51) and — exciting news for people who hope to visit a classic pub while they’re in the country — a freeze on alcohol duties.
Still find the whole thing a bit complicated to follow? You’re not the only one.
In addition to October 29 being budget day, it is also National Cat Day, so the exchequer’s office had its offical kitty-in-residence, the bowtie-sporting Gladstone, break down some of the most important takeaways.