Carded At The Border

Having enrolled online before we went to the U.S., upon returning to the U.K. on Saturday I was allowed to join the U.K.’s Registered Traveller scheme. It enables some non-EU passport holders to enter the country through immigration e-gates at international U.K. airports, as well as the Paris, Brussels and Lille Eurostar terminals. No more filling out a landing card.

To do so, I had to mention it to the young woman border agent – on seeing her I thought she rather resembled singer Leona Lewis – who happened to be processing me. She knew what I meant immediately. She followed by asking for my invitation letter.

I handed it over. She scrutinized it and questioned me further. I passed muster. She concluded the formalities, “That’s fine. Let me get you a membership card.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a UK flag
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a UK flag

She reached into her desk’s storage shelving. After pulling out and digging around in several trays, she realized she didn’t have a card. She stepped quickly to her colleague at the desk next to her and asked, “Do you have a Registered Traveller card?”

That colleague at that desk didn’t have one. She walked from that colleague’s desk to an empty desk. Digging through that shelving as well, that desk didn’t have one either.

She walked back to me, shook her head, and laughed. “I promise, we have one somewhere.”

“They must be popular,” I replied. “I used to use Iris, but suddenly it was gone.”

“Lots of people have told us they liked that,” she acknowledged. “It was popular.”

She walked quickly to another unmanned station. Waiting for me on the other side of immigration, I could see my wife looking perplexed.

She came back to me once more. She still couldn’t find a card. “Could you please hang on another minute,” she said, an embarrassed grin now on her face.

I watched her as she tried another desk and failed yet again. Finally at another post she found one. She waved it at me from a distance, and walked back hurriedly with that single card.

“Whew. I knew we had one somewhere.” She sat down again at her post, signed it off with a smile, and instructed me casually, “Carry it and show it as you enter an e-gates, otherwise you’ll get sent away if they see the non-EU passport cover.”

“It looks like a driving licence,” I noted as I watched her handling it and filling out the back.

“It fits easily into a wallet,” she handed it to me. “Have a good day,” she finished off.

“You have a good day too,” I replied, still standing there.

“Oops.” She realized she hadn’t opened the barrier partition officially keeping me out of the country. “Sorry about that.” She got up, stepped to it, swung it clear, and smiled at me again.

My passport and my Registered Traveller card. [Photo by me, 2015.]
My passport and my Registered Traveller card. [Photo by me, 2015.]

I walked off to my waiting wife. As I reached her, she asked me dryly, “You haven’t been charming another British female border agent, have you?”

Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂