Immigration on arrival

Last modified: 22 December 2020

If you travel to the UK by air, you will probably arrive at one of London's main international airports, Heathrow or Gatwick; or one of the big regional airports, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh or Glasgow. Some airports are large and have several terminals, and you will need to follow signs to find your way out. If you travel by sea you will probably arrive at one of the Channel Ports—Dover, Folkestone or Harwich are the most likely. It is also possible to arrive in London on the Eurostar train, which travels through the Channel Tunnel, or to bring a car through the tunnel on a shuttle train. Please note that if you travel by Eurostar, you will go through UK immigration control in France before you board the Eurostar.

Going through immigration control

Last modified: 22 December 2020

If you arrive at an airport, you pass through immigration control first (before collecting your luggage). There are usually two main queues: one for European Economic Area and Swiss nationals, and one for everyone else.

If you are a registered traveller  you will be able to enter through the UK and EU passport entry lanes or through the eGates if your passport has a ‘chip’. EEA and Swiss citizens as well as citizens of Australia, Canada,  Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA can also use the eGates, if they have a passport with a 'chip' and are over 12 years old (those who are 12- 17 must be accompanied by an adult).

See the Home Office guidance on entering the UK for advice about what to do and expect at border control.

Make sure you join the correct queue. A border force officer will look at your passport and check your visa/entry clearance, or assess you as a visitor if you are a non-visa national applying at the border. Make sure you have the right documents, in your hand luggage, if a border force officer is assessing you as a visitor at the border and you are asked to provide them. 

When you enter (or re-enter) the UK with Student immigration permission, the border force officer must be satisfied that you speak English at the required level, without needing an interpreter. 

You should also have documents relating to:

  • your studies (letter from your university/college/school, including your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies number if you are coming to the UK as a Student)
  • your finances
  • where you are going to stay

in your hand baggage, in paper form (not on an electronic tablet or mobile phone).

Before leaving immigration control, check that the border force officer has put a date stamp (if you had a visa or entry clearance) in your passport. After immigration control, you will be able to collect your baggage. At most airports baggage is unloaded on to one of a number of moving belts ('carousels') in the baggage collection area. Look for your flight number and the name of the place your flight departed from on the screens, or above the carousels, and wait for each item of your baggage to appear. If any item does not come through, find a representative of the airline you travelled on and fill in a lost baggage form.

The Home Office has, since 20 May 2019 removed the requirement for non-EEA nationals to complete landing cards. It is therefore very important if you use the eGates to enter the UK that you keep evidence of the date and place you entered.