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Entering the United Kingdom Rules

Border control will check your passport or identity card. They will then verify whether you need a visa to enter, or travel through, the United Kingdom.

ARRIVAL & ENTRY VISAS: This process begins when you are entering into the UK at airports and ferry ports.

Your credentials must be valid for the whole of your stay. Depending on your nationality you may also need an entry visa.

You and your luggage may get checked for any items that you must declare. What you can bring with you into the country depends on where you are travelling from.

Even so, items which you must declare to customs at the UK Border Control include:

  • Banned or restricted goods in the UK (e.g. meat and dairy products from most non-EU countries).
  • Goods that you plan to sell.
  • Anything over your duty-free allowance.
  • If you take cash in and out of the UK that is more than €10,000 (or its equivalent) in cash (if coming from outside the EU).

Documents Required to Enter the UK

Always check the required documentation before you leave for the United Kingdom. Use this checklist to confirm what documents you need for entering Great Britain.

Entering the UK from EEA Country or Switzerland

It is permissible to enter into the United Kingdom with a valid passport or a national identity card. That is providing it got issued by an EEA country. But, the validity must cover the complete period of your stay.

Entering the UK from a Non EEA Country

What if you are attempting to enter the United Kingdom from a non EEA country? In this case you must have a valid passport to enter. Your passport must be valid for the whole duration of your stay.

You may also need to check UK visa requirements depending on which country you are coming from. You should check if you need a visa to enter before you leave your country.

Note: In some circumstances you may also need to get a visa if you are ‘transiting‘ or travelling through the UK (e.g. changing flights at an airport). In this case, you should apply for a UK Visa before you arrive in the United Kingdom.

Travelling into the UK with Children

UK Border Control may ask you to prove the relationship between yourself and any children who are travelling with you. As a rule, this usually happens when it seems unlikely that you are the parent (e.g. different surnames).

You can prove your parental relationship using:

  • A birth or adoption certificate showing your relationship with the child.
  • Divorce or marriage certificates if you are the parent but have a different surname from the child.
  • A letter from the child’s parent giving them permission to travel with you and providing contact details (if you are not the parent).

Checks Before Boarding

The airline or transport provider will check your passport and other travel documents. That means the information gets sent electronically to Border Force.

You can make a request to see HMPO privacy information that is being sent by your carriers but you will have to pay a £10 fee to do so.

UK Border Control

Your passport will get checked at the UK Border Control and you must:

  • Prepare your passport for inspection (remove it from a passport holder).
  • Take off your sunglasses if you are wearing them.
  • Move through passport control in a group if you are traveling in a family.

Bus or Coach Arrival

You will need to disembark the coach or bus when you arrive at border control. Ensure you are ready to get off the bus when you arrive and have your travel documents ready for inspection.

Note: Read the ‘guidance for school parties and groups coming to the UK by coach‘.

EEA Countries and Switzerland

You can use the EU/EEA channel to get your passport checked – this method is faster than the other channels, as a rule. You can also use automatic ePassport gates at some airports if your passport has a ‘chip‘ on it and you are over 18 years old.

Inspections at these gates use facial recognition technology. It will check your identity against the photo in your passport.

Non EEA Countries

Your carrier will give you a landing card. Make sure you fill this in before you arrive at border control. Your passport, landing card (and visa if you have one) will all get checked. It is customary for border staff to ask you the purpose of your visit to the United Kingdom.

Keep all documents that show your reasons for visiting inside your hand luggage. That makes it easy if you get asked to do so (e.g. travel itinerary, work permit, university letter).

Registered Travellers

If you have already joined the Registered Traveller Service, you may not need a landing card at some airports. You can use the UK/EEA channels or automatic ePassport gates (if your passport got chipped).

UK Biometric Visa Rules

You will have a biometric visa if your fingerprints got taken when you applied. Your fingerprints will get checked at border control. That means they get checked against the ones stored on your visa document.

Refused Entry?

If you get refused entry into the United Kingdom you will get told in writing:

  1. Why they refused your entry into the United Kingdom.
  2. Whether you can appeal against the decision or not.
  3. When you will get removed from the United Kingdom.

As a rule you will need to leave the UK immediately. You may be able to stay in the UK temporarily (usually for up to a week). But your passport will get taken from you and you must report to immigration officers at set times.

Border Baggage Checks

If you get stopped and asked about your baggage – you must co-operate! Your baggage is usually checked in front of you. If you break the rules your goods and any vehicle you use to transport them may get seized.

Customs officers keep a record of all baggage they open and check. They also record any damage caused to your baggage or belongings during a check. You may get offered compensation if your baggage or belongings get damaged during a customs check.

You can make a complaint to the duty manager if you want to complain about a customs check while you are at the border. Or, you can complain to Border Force if you want to make a complaint at a later date.

Transiting through UK Airports

Transiting refers to passengers who are passing through an airport while they are on the way to another country. Some travellers call it a ‘layover‘. Find out if you need a UK visa for your layover. There are 2 types of transiting situations (or layovers):

  1. Airside: Means you do not pass through UK border control before you leave on your connecting journey.
  2. Landside: Means you do pass through UK border control, but come back through it and leave the UK within a short amount of time (24 hours as a rule).

UK Border Control: Entering the United Kingdom Rule of Law