UKBA gears up for the Olympics

The UK Border Agency is mounting the largest entry-clearance operation in history during the 2012 Olympics, which will include the first-ever fingerprinting of visa national athletes.

Speaking at a Consular Corps lecture, Tony Smith, the head of the UKBA’s Olympic Programme, said preparations were in place to ensure smooth entry at UK borders without compromising on security.

The UK will be the first country hosting a major international sporting event to use biometric technology to secure the identity of participants on arrival and there will be a dedicated ‘Olympic lane’ at airports to speed up processing.

The UKBA is expecting to clear 70,000 ‘Games Family Members’ – athletes, officials, coaches, sponsors and the media. Up to 140 heads of state are expected to attend and the UKBA is anticipating a 3 per cent rise in visitors.

An Olympic Clearing House has been set up to handle the accreditation of 450,000 applicants, which includes the workforce on the Olympic site and volunteers.

Mr Smith said the Olympic Clearing House was currently conducting background checks on applicants for Olympic accreditation and appealed to consuls and their missions to assist in sensitive cases where applications were rejected.

Accreditation cards will be valid for entry from 31 March 2012 until 8 November and will function as a visa waiver when accompanied by a passport for non-EEA participants. The UKBA has introduced a special multiple-entry Olympic Games Visit Visa for non-EEA participants wanting to enter the country before 31 March 2012.

For visa national spectators, Mr Smith said entry clearance would be “business as usual” and they would need to apply for a visa to attend.

Tony Smith, head of the UKBA’s Olympic Programme