As gov.uk states:

You can use the EU/EEA channel to get your passport or identity card checked - this is usually faster than the other channels.

You can use automatic ePassport gates at some airports if your passport has a ‘chip’ on it and you’re over 18.

These gates use facial recognition technology to check your identity against the photo in your passport.

Some airlines (or maybe all, I do not know) allow people the age of 16 or over to travel alone.

What practical reason is there for having the 18+ age requirement to use these ePassport gates?

  • What if the reason isn't practical (say something related to privacy rights or something)? I have no idea what the reason actually is but it seems an unnecessarily restrictive way to frame the question. – Relaxed May 1 '16 at 14:48
  • @Relaxed By 'practical', I mean, I don't want an answer that says 'you have to be 18 because that's just how it is' etc / or something just made up on the spot for the single case of ePassport gates. If the answer is indeed to do with 'privacy rights' (something that affects more than just ePassport gates), that would be acceptable as an answer. – OlivierTheOlive May 1 '16 at 14:51
  • There's currently a 6-month trial of allowing children aged 12+ to use the e-passport gates at some airports, eg London Heathrow Terminal 5. The Daily Mail hates this so it may not get rolled out after the trial, despite reducing queues :/ – Gagravarr May 1 '16 at 16:07
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    My suspicion is it is the same reason why your passport validity is shorter when you are under 18: your facial appearance can change very rapidly at this age. This can make validating you against the picture hard, particularly when you are only seen on a screen instead of in person. Therefore I would speculate that caution was required when rolling out this new technology. Now that it is tested on adults, they can start using it on children too. – Calchas May 1 '16 at 17:08
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    BA lets anyone over the age of 12 travel solo. – Calchas May 1 '16 at 17:27

These restrictions are in place to protect children who may have been forced to travel against their will. By forcing children 12 and under to the human facing desks this then means the supervisor can be questioned.

The previous limit of 18 was proving difficult in practice as a number of families were being held up and made to wait.


See the information for if you are under 18 traveling to the UK. For example, a person under 18 traveling alone needs written consent to travel to the UK from their parent or guardian. Checking that would be very difficult to automate.

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    This doesn't apply to EU/EEA citizens though. – JonathanReez May 1 '16 at 15:06
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    The page says you need parental consent to travel to the UK if you are under 18. It doesn't say that applies only if you need a visa. – DJClayworth May 1 '16 at 15:37
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    @DJClayworth that entire section is about non-EU citizens. I'm not saying it's not true, but that particular page is not a good reference. – JonathanReez May 1 '16 at 15:53
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    In practise this isn't actually required for basically any child who is able to act like an adult. I know at least one fifteen year old who has been travelling solo between his mum in Germany and his dad in the UK twice a month for the last three years ... no paperwork except a German ID card. – Calchas May 1 '16 at 17:10

As well as the restrictions on travelling to the UK alone if you are under 18, where the border guard is probably required to verify that you have parental consent, the automated process requires you to self-certify that you have entered the correct particulars. There is a minimum age below which you will not be considered legally competent to do that, and presumably 18 was chosen as that age.

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    There's currently a trial at some airports for children 12+ to be able to use the e-passport gates, so not sure the above can be true given that – Gagravarr May 1 '16 at 16:08
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    What do you mean "self certify"? You just lay the passport on a scanner and look into a camera. You don't "enter any particulars" anywhere. – Martin Smith May 1 '16 at 21:05

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