Whether a traveller holds a European Economic Area (EEA) passport, a visa, or a UK electronic visa waiver, there are steps that all non-UK citizens will have to go through at the border in order to enter the United Kingdom without issues or delays.
To help avoid surprises and be granted entry hassle-free, this article will provide relevant information that can be used to prepare to cross the border. It will cover:
- The documents required at the border
- Differences between entering the UK by plane or bus
- What to do if refused entry at the British border
How to go through the border at the airport
Although luggage checks and most border control procedures upon departure are the same for most travellers, police checks upon arrival may vary depending on the individual’s passport. Here are a few examples:
UK border control for citizens of the EEA and Switzerland
There are special dedicated EU/EEA channels to have travel documents checked. Queues are usually shorter and the passage is quicker.
Some airports offer arrivals the possibility to go through ePassport gates. Only individuals over 12 years of age who hold an electronic passport — a passport with a special chip that can be passed on the automatic scanner — can use these gates.
ePassport gates are the quickest form of passport control as they use facial recognition technology and do not need to be operated by a border control officer.
UK border control for citizens of non-EEA countries
Travellers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must queue in the correct lane and go through passport control. They will be asked for their documents and the reason why they are travelling to the UK.
Passport holders from certain countries can use the ePassport gates. These include:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United States
However, travellers from the above countries still need to see a border control officer in certain circumstances — for example, if they are on a short-term student visa, a Tier 5 Creative or Sporting certificate of sponsorship, a permitted paid engagement, or are joining an EEA family member.
Registered travellers can join the EU/EEA lanes or use the ePassport gates. If a traveller has a UK biometric residence permit, their fingerprints will be checked against the ones they previously provided.
How to enter the UK by bus
If entering the UK by coach or bus, travellers will be asked to leave the bus once it reaches the border.
They will simply need to get off the bus, follow the instructions, and have their documents ready.
What to do if you are refused entry to the UK
There are many reasons why an individual may have been refused entry. Usually, these will have been explained both in person and in writing.
The individual will receive written instructions on what to do next. In most cases, they will be asked to leave the UK immediately.
However, there are many circumstances in which a foreign national may be granted the possibility to appeal against the UK entry refusal. In this case, the individual will also be told how long they can stay in the UK for and how they can appeal.
Usually, the traveller will be allowed to enter the UK and stay for up to a week. During this time, they will need to leave their passport with the authorities and see an immigration officer at specific times.
Documents to have in order to enter the UK
Regardless of an individual’s nationality and visa status, they will need to have their passport or identity card on their person. The passport or other accepted ID must be:
- Ready to be shown: remove it from your bag or wallet.
- Valid at least for the whole duration of the stay in the UK.
A visa may also be required, depending on the traveller’s nationality. Citizens of certain countries are able to enter the UK visa-free, while others have a variety of visas available to them. Some (including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman) can apply for an EVW up to 48 hours before travelling and enter the UK without a visa.