News Archive - September 2012

Officials consider UK immigration fast track service

20 Sep 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Reports suggest that officials are considering introducing a fast track UK immigration service for "high value" individuals.

Brian Moore, the outgoing head of the UK Border Force, told MPs in the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee that officials are working seriously on the concept of such a service that would make travel easier for individuals deemed to be wealthy or of political importance.

Mr Moore explained that service would be aimed at individuals "valued by the economy and valued by airlines to demonstrate that Britain is open for business".

He added: "It is an idea that officials are discussing with port operators. It will then go back to ministers for them to consider whether and how it is going to be progressed. It is an idea that is being pursued."

The Home Office has failed to elaborate on just how the "high value" individuals would be selected or processed. Whatever plan is finally decided upon will need to improve on the existing systems in place. In Heathrow, for example, there is already a 'By Invitation' service for £1,500 plus VAT, which allows passengers who can afford it to be whisked away from the plan to an exclusive lounge with a dedicated immigration officer.

The comments follow observations made earlier this year by Willie Walsh, head of the International Airlines Group, who told the Daily Telegraph that influential executives from outside of the EU were being put off from doing business with Britain due to the delays they face with UK immigration processes.

Indeed, in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics, there were reports of queues of up to two hours at the immigration desks at Heathrow airport due to a shortage of Border Force staff.

Corin Taylor, senior economic adviser at the IoD, was among those to welcome the initiative, albeit in a guarded manner. Mr Taylor stated: "Anything that makes Britain’s woeful immigration process flow faster is a good thing. Making it easier for business leaders to enter the UK would help to increase badly-needed investment in this country."

However, he added that a fast track service can "never be a substitute for improving the system for all users", urging the authorities to deliver a system that worked for everybody.