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UK Entry Requirements

The UK has a range of different entry requirements depending on where you are coming from, the reasons for your visit, and more.

For more information on UK entry requirements, visas or any other aspect of UK immigration, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our trusted legal advisors today on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online.

What Are the Basic Requirements for Entering the UK?

Firstly, you must have a valid identity document (such as a passport or identity card) for the whole of your stay. This will be checked upon your arrival at a UK airport or port to ensure you’re allowed to come into the country.

You may also need a visa to enter or travel through the UK, depending on your nationality, the reason for your visit, and how long you’ll be staying in the UK.

Note that entry requirements may vary for different UK visas and visa types.

What Documents Do I Need to Enter the UK?

The documents you will need to enter the UK will vary depending on where you’re from.

If You’re a British Citizen

You can enter the UK with either a valid UK passport or a Gibraltar Identity Card.

If you’re travelling from Ireland to Northern Ireland, you do not require any documents to travel.

However, if you’re travelling from Ireland to England, Scotland or Wales, you may be asked by a Border Force officer to show your proof of identity or nationality. These can include:

  • A passport (current or expired)
  • Poof that you’ve been given British citizenship – such as a UK citizenship certificate
  • A Gibraltar identity card (current or expired)
  • A copy of your passport or Gibraltar identity card that clearly shows your identity and nationality

You can use an expired passport or identity card for this purpose, although it must be recent enough to be clear that it is yours.

If You’re From the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

You can enter the UK with any one of the following:

  • A passport from your home country
  • An Irish passport card
  • A national identity card issued by an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, if you’re eligible to use one

Your identity document should be valid for the whole of your stay.

Note that you cannot use a national identity card from an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein to enter the UK unless you:

  • Have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man’s settlement schemes
  • Have an EU Settlement Scheme family permit, or the equivalent from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man
  • Have a Frontier Worker permit
  • Are an S2 Healthcare Visitor
  • Are a Swiss national and have a Service Provider from Switzerland visa

If you’re waiting for a decision on your application for settled or pre-settled status, you can still use your EEA or Swiss national identity card to enter the UK as long as all of the following are true:

  • You’ve applied for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man’s settlement schemes
  • You’ve been issued confirmation your application is valid
  • You’re not applying as a joining family member

If you’ve not applied for settled or pre-settled status but are planning to, you must enter the UK with either:

If You’re From Outside the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To enter the UK if you are not from the EU or EEA, you must meet separate UK entry requirements.

One is that you must have a valid passport to enter the UK. It must also be valid for the whole duration of your stay.

You may also need a visa to enter the UK, depending on what country you’re from. If you’re from an EU/EFTA member state, you normally don’t need a visa to travel to the UK for visits up to 6 months.

In addition, citizens of the following countries normally do not need a visa to visit the UK for visits up to 6 months:

AndorraHong KongParaguay
Antigua and BarbudaIsraelSaint Kitts and Nevis
ArgentinaJapanSaint Lucia
AustraliaKiribatiSaint Vincent and the Grenadines
BahamasMacauSamoa
BarbadosMalaysiaSan Marino
BelizeMaldivesSeychelles
BotswanaMarshall IslandsSingapore
BrazilMauritiusSolomon Islands
BruneiMexicoSouth Korea
CanadaMicronesiaTaiwan
ChileMonacoTonga
Costa RicaNamibiaTrinidad and Tobago
DominicaNauruTuvalu
East TimorNew ZealandUnited States of America
El SalvadorNicaraguaUruguay
GrenadaPalauVanuatu
GuatemalaPanamaVatican City
HondurasPapua New Guinea

Non- EU/EFTA member states and countries not on this list will normally require a visa to enter the UK.

If you require a visa to enter the UK, the visa you need will depend on the activities you plan to do while in the UK.

You will likely have to obtain a Standard Visitor Visa if you wish to visit for tourism, a business visitor visa if it is for short business visits, or a student visitor visa for short study (courses 6 months or less) and other permitted activities.

You will need a dedicated UK work visa or study visa if you plan to work in the UK or study in the UK for longer than 6 months, respectively.

In addition, you may also need a transit visa if you’re passing through the UK in order to travel to somewhere else.

If you’re travelling from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man

You will only need to show your documents if you’re stopped by a Border Force officer.

They may ask to see proof of the following:

  • Identity
  • Permission to come to the UK, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, if you need it – for example, a visa, biometric residence permit (BRP) or work permit

You don’t have to use a passport, Irish passport card or identity card to prove your identity. Instead, you can use other documents such as a driving licence or armed forces identity card.

What Items Can I Bring With Me to the UK?

What you’re able to bring with you when you enter the UK will depend on where you’re travelling from, and where you’re travelling to.

You and your baggage may be checked upon arrival for any restricted items, or for items that must be declared.

You must always declare to customs if you have any of the following:

  • Anything over your duty-free allowance
  • Banned or restricted goods in the UK
  • Goods that you plan to sell
  • More than €10,000 (or its equivalent) in cash, if you’re coming from outside the EU

You may have to pay additional tax or duty on any items you bring to the UK that exceed your personal allowance.

Banned goods are things that you cannot bring into the UK. These include:

  • Controlled drugs
  • Offensive weapons, for example flick knives
  • Self-defence sprays, for example pepper spray and CS gas
  • Endangered animal and plant species
  • Rough diamonds
  • Indecent and obscene materials, such as books, magazines, films and DVDs
  • Personal imports of meat and dairy products from most non-EU countries

These items will be seized by customs if found in your baggage at the border.

In addition, restricted items such as firearms, explosives and ammunition can only be brought into the UK with special licences.

You should always double check your baggage for items that may be banned, restricted, or exceed your personal allowance before bringing them to the UK, and declare them if you have to.

Do you need help with entering the UK? Our lawyers can assist you.

What should I bring with me when travelling to the UK with children

If you are travelling to the UK with a child, you should bring additional documents that prove the relationship between yourself and any children travelling with you. The UK border officers may request such. This may occur if you do not seem to be the parent – for example, if you have a different surname.

You can prove this with:

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

Travel Insurance

When travelling to the UK, you may need to obtain travel or medical insurance or pay for the immigration health surcharge.

The UK government expects anyone coming to the UK for more than six months to pay for the immigration health surcharge before the visa application process is done, or else the visa may not be approved. However, visitors to the UK (those staying for less than six months) do not need to pay for the immigration healthcare surcharge. They can obtain travel insurance instead.

Please note that getting travel insurance for the UK is not a UK entry requirement; instead, it is recommended to enable you to obtain medical and travel health support if you need it.

What to Expect at the UK Border Control

You must be ready to show your required documents at the border. You should also remember to remove your face covering or sunglasses, if you’re wearing them, and move through passport control together if you’re in a family.

If You’re a British Citizen

You can use the UK/EEA channel to get your passport or Gibraltar identity card checked.

Additionally, you can use automatic ePassport gates (if available) if your passport has a ‘chip’ on it and you’re 12 or over. If you’re between 12 and 17, you must be accompanied by an adult.

These gates use facial recognition technology to check your identity against the photo in your passport.

If you’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

You can use the UK/EEA channel to get your passport, Irish passport card or national identity card checked.

Note that your passport or national identity card should be registered on your UK Visas and Immigration account if either of the following are true:

  • You have settled or pre-settled status
  • You used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document when applying for a visa

You may be delayed at the border if your passport or national identity card is not registered on your UK Visas and Immigration account.

You should tell a Border Force officer if you have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme but are planning to apply.

If you’re from outside the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

Your passport (and visa if you have one) will be checked at border control. You’ll normally be asked why you’re coming to the UK.

You can use the UK/EEA immigration lanes and the automatic ePassport gates if you’re from the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • United States

If you’re refused entry into the UK for any reason, you’ll be informed in writing with the following information:

  • Why you’ve been refused entry to the UK
  • If you can appeal against the decision
  • When you will be removed from the UK

You’ll usually have to leave the UK immediately.

You may be allowed into the UK temporarily (usually for up to a week) but your passport will be taken from you and you will be expected to report to immigration officers at set times.

Baggage Checks

Your baggage may be checked at the border when entering the UK. This is usually done in front of you.

Customs officers keep a record of:

  • All baggage they open and check
  • Any damage to your baggage or belongings during a check

You may be eligible for compensation if your baggage or belongings are damaged during a customs check. Additionally, you are entitled to ask for the duty manager if you wish to complain about a customs check when at the border, or send a complaint to Border Force later on.

UK Entry Requirements for Transiting Through a UK Airport

You may need a visa if you are transiting through a UK airport on your way to another country.

In order to be eligible for a transit visa, you must prove that:

  • You’ll be in transit to another country, with enough funds and the intention to travel on
  • You can enter that country
  • The only purpose of your visit to the UK is transit

There are two types of transit visa:

  • ‘Airside’ – for those who will not pass through UK border control before leaving on a connecting journey
  • ‘Landside’ – for those who will pass through UK border control but will come back through it and leave within a short amount of time

Airside transits require a Direct Airside Transit visa (DATV), whereas landside transits require a Visitor in Transit visa.

You will need to apply for a standard visitor visa if you plan to stay in the UK longer than 48 hours.

Whether or not you’ll need a transit visa will vary based on where you’re from.

For further information about the transit visa and any other aspect of travelling to the UK, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our specialist UK immigration lawyers on 0333 305 9375 or contact us through our form online.

For assistance with navigating the UK entry requirements, contact us today.

Are there Covid-19 Restrictions for those entering the UK?

As of Friday 18 March 2022, all COVID-19 restrictions on travellers coming to the UK have been lifted. This means that travellers no longer need to self-isolate, produce a COVID test certificate, or fill in a Passenger Locator Form when entering the UK. In addition, there are no longer any quarantine rules or restrictions for travellers.

Note that this applies to both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers, meaning that travellers also no longer need to disclose their vaccination status before travelling to the UK.

You should still adhere to entry requirements and international travel advice for other countries as necessary.

How Can IAS Help?

It’s essential that you know what the requirements are for travelling to the UK before you set off, as well as what documents you need to enter the UK. This will help you obtain entry clearance into the UK and avoid being turned back.

The IAS are expert immigration professionals with years’ worth of experience in dealing with UK immigration law. We offer specialist advice and guidance on people wanting to enter the UK, ensuring that your documents, visas and applications are fully compliant with regulations..

Get in touch to speak with one of our specialists today on 0333 305 9375, or contact us through our form online.

We can help you if you need help with your visa or residency application.

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