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Last time I visited the UK, it took 3 hours to get through the immigration queues.

I recall seeing signs saying something like:

"Registered Travellers from [list of countries] can use the EU/UK lines."

I have another trip the the UK in a few months, and I am really dreading the giant queue, especially after a 17 hour flight.

So I am looking up how to become a Registered Traveller.

It says:

  1. Apply online for Registered Traveller membership. ...
  2. You’ll get a decision on your application within 10 working days. ...
  3. If your application is accepted, the next time you travel to the UK you must go through the ‘other passports’ lane and fill in a landing card.
  4. The immigration officer will check that you meet the criteria and tell you if you can become a member. ...

So does this mean that being accepted at point 2, isn't a real acceptance. You get the real acceptance the first time you enter after applying, using the ‘other passports’ lane (i.e. the non-UK/EU line). And then after that if you visit the UK again (assuming all successful), you get to use the EU/UK lane?

(I mostly just want to know if I am understanding it right. I think other things mean it just isn't financially worth it to me to become a registered traveller. I'ld need to pay for a Visa since I've not visited 4 times before)

  • 1
    Have you considered alternate routes? In my experience, the lines are much shorter in Luton, Edinburgh, Brussels (Eurostar), and Harwich than at Heathrow. – phoog May 25 '18 at 12:15
  • @phoog Heathrow is the only airport in Europe with a direct flight from my city; to go anywhere else I'ld have to do a transfer. Doing the transfer would add 2+ hours (maybe more) to my journey, so unless the lines were basically nil at the other airports, I can't see it being worth it. – Lyndon White May 26 '18 at 2:56
  • @LyndonWhite, An alternative that just costs money might be to spend on a better ticket that gets you an immigration Fast Track invitation for your next trip. That lane is usually much quicker than the normal queue (though it was the Fast Track guy that didn't have the plastic cards in my case). If you do that once you won't need to do it again, the passport machines are faster than the Fast Track lane. – Dennis May 26 '18 at 18:24
  • @Dennis wow, I did not know that was a thing. Unfortunately for me, the lowest class tickets offering that are about 4x the price, which is huge for a flight that long. Still great to know if I'm ever in a position to take advantage of it. I'ld always wondered if the fancy folk in first class were stuck in the same 3 hour queue as the rest of us smucks :-p – Lyndon White May 27 '18 at 1:24
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Your understanding is correct, the first entry after your online application is approved needs to be via the non-EU queue. The immigration officer you see on that entry will actually complete your registration. The end result of that should be that the IO gives you a blue plastic card with your name and a number written on it, after which you are free to use the UK/EU line or the passport machines for subsequent entries. The card is irrelevant if you use the passport machines but if you see a human you are apparently supposed to show the card when you hand over your passport so he doesn't give you crap for using the wrong line or not filling in the landing card. If you don't get the card on that first entry (this happened to me) the follow-up email telling you that you were successfully registered will include a link to a PDF copy of the front side of the card, which you should print and carry instead to avoid being yelled at; when you subsequently see an IO that actually has the plastic cards they'll give you one then.

I originally thought that £50/year was a fantasticly expensive price for this but the state of the immigration hall when I fly into Heathrow makes it seem like a bargain. The passport machines are generally queueless and quick.

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