Israeli business travellers and frequent visitors to the UK will now be eligible for faster entry at border controls, under new Home Office guidelines.
With effect from today, travellers who often visit Britain can apply for membership of the Regular Traveller Service, which will enable them to arrive here and pass quickly through the UK and EU entry lanes without a landing card.
Israel is one of 16 countries that were added to the expanded service. Others, who can also now use the ePassport gates, include Mexico, Argentina and Malaysia.
Already open to passport holders from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA, the scheme currently has more than 67,000 members and offers speedier entry at British borders.
Applicants must pay £70 - £50 of which is refunded to unsuccessful applicants – for a year’s membership, while also submitting passport and payment details online. Individuals, who must undergo advanced security checks, must have visited Britain at least four times in the last two years.
According to the Home Office, visitors from Israel and just five other countries spent close to £1bn in the UK last year - an increase of almost 30 per cent on the previous year.
The service will be available at the five London airports, as well as five others across the country. It will also be on offer at Eurostar terminals in Paris, Brussels, and Lille.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “By opening the Registered Traveller Service to even more members we are sending a clear message to the world that the UK is open for business.
“Last year, visitors from the newly-eligible nations spent close to £1bn in the UK and trade with them is worth billions to the UK’s economy every year."
David Quarrey, the British ambassador to Israel, said: “This is great news for UK-Israel relations, and in particular for Israelis doing business in the UK. The new service will be a further boost to UK/Israel trade, which is already at record levels”.
He added: “The UK is open for business, and the UK is open for Israelis.”