Australian arrival numbers to the United Kingdom are expected to benefit from a new government directive to open up fast-track immigration access to Aussie passport holders from next year.
According to the ABC, Australians holding a microchipped passport will gain the same rights as available to EEA (European Economic Area) nationals. Passport holders from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Japan have also been extended the same rights, all of which will take effect on 01 January, 2019.
The announcement was made by Chancellor to the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his delivery of the UK Budget. The ABC report says the move will solidify Australian support for Britain ahead of its expected move out of the European Union early next year.
Australian government officials, including High Commissioner George Brandis welcomed the move, saying the access rights had been a project on the table for some time and that “we’ve been working towards this for some time so it is great to see it announced.”
Speaking on behalf of VisitBritain – the UK’s government body promoting inbound tourism around the world – Australia Country Manager Maria Sykes reiterated Australia was an incredibly important market for the UK and one that is currently worth £1.2 billion per year in visitor revenue.”
“Making it easier and faster to travel with ePassport gate access boosts our competitive tourism offer and our message of welcome, helping build on the strong growth we have seen and inspiring even more Australians to book a trip to Britain,” Sykes said.
The latest figures from VisitBritain showed there were 1.1 million visits from Australian passport holders to the UK in 2017 – an increase of 11% year-on-year from 2016.