Whether you hold an 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 you avoid surprises and be granted entry hassle-free, this article will give you relevant information that you can use to prepare yourself to cross the border. It will cover:
- The documents you’ll need at the border
- Differences between entering the UK by plane or bus
- What to do if you’re refused entry at the British border
How to Go Through the Border at the Airport
Although luggage check and most border control procedures upon departure are the same for most travelers, police checks upon arrival may vary depending on your 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 your documents checked. Queues are usually shorter and the passage is quicker.
Some airports offer you the possibility to go through ePassport gates. You will need to be over 12 years of age and hold an electronic passport — a passport with a special chip that you can pass on the automatic scanner.
ePassport gates are the quickest form of passport control as they use facial recognition technology and don’t need to be operated by a border control officer.
UK Border Control for Citizens of non-EEA countries
Queue on the correct lane and go through passport control. You’ll be asked for your documents and the reason why you’re traveling to the UK.
Passport holders from certain countries can use the ePassport gates. These include:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United State
However, travelers from the above countries still need to see a border control officer in certain circumstances — for example, if they’re 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 travelers can join the EU/EEA lanes or use the ePassport gates. If you have a UK biometric residence permit, your fingerprints will be checked against the ones you previously provided.
How to Enter the UK by Bus
If you’re entering the UK by coach or bus, you’ll be asked to leave the bus once you reach the border.
You will simply need to get off the bus, follow the instructions, and have your documents ready.
What to Do if You’re Refused Entry to the UK
There are many reasons why you may have been refused entry. Usually, these will have been explained to you both in person and in writing.
You’ll receive written instructions on what to do next. In most cases, you will be asked to leave the UK immediately.
However, there are many circumstances in which you may be granted the possibility to appeal against the UK entry refusal. In this case, you’ll also be told how long you can stay in the UK for and how you can appeal.
Usually, you’ll be allowed to enter the UK and stay for up to a week. During this time, you’ll need to leave your passport to the authorities and see an immigration officer at specific times.
Documents to Have in Order to Enter the UK
Regardless of your nationality and visa status, you will need to have your passport or identity card on you. Your 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 your stay in the UK.
You may also need a visa depending on your 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 a EVW up to 48 hours before traveling and enter the UK without a visa.