Anyone arriving in the UK from another country – whether they are on holiday or coming to the UK as an immigrant – should ensure that they are prepared. Careful preparation will help to minimise delays on entering the UK and reduce the risk of being refused entry.
Before Travelling to the UK
Depending on the purpose and length of their visit people travelling to the UK should make sure that they have the following items easily accessible in their hand luggage for when they arrive:
- Passport or other travel document together with any visa and /or entry clearance that is required under the immigration rules;
- Any documents which may have to be produced under the terms of a visa to confirm the purpose of the visit to the UK;
- Documents which prove that the visitor or immigrant can support themselves financially during the course of their stay in the UK.
Arriving in the UK
All travellers arriving in the UK must go through passport control upon their arrival in the country. All passports will be checked – including those issued by the UK, the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. Passports are scanned electronically to ensure that they are genuine.
Travellers arriving on passports issued by countries other than those in the UK, the EU, the EEA and Switzerland will have to go through further checks:
- Immigration officials may ask questions about the purpose of the visit to the UK.
- People travelling on visas may be asked to produce some or all of the documents which supported their visa application.
- Travellers to the UK could be asked to show immigration officials the cash, travellers cheques or other financial means that they will use to support themselves during their stay.
- Travellers who intend to stay in the UK for longer than six months will also require entry clearance before being allowed into the UK (even if they would not ordinarily require a visa).
If the immigration officials are not entirely satisfied after examining all the documents they may detain a passenger whilst they make further enquiries. If necessary, an interpreter will be provided.
Everyone arriving in the UK from countries outside of the EU, EEA and Switzerland must fill in a landing card. These will usually be provided by your carrier but are also available before passport control. Each passenger must fill in the card with their personal information and the full address at which they will be staying while they are in the UK.
What Happens if You are Refused Entry to the UK?
If the immigration officials are not satisfied that a passenger is genuinely entitled to be in the UK they can refuse to allow entry into the country. If this happens the officials will provide a written explanation for the refusal to allow entry into the UK and will inform the traveller whether they have any right to appeal. In some cases passengers will be permitted to enter the UK temporarily while arrangements are made to remove them.
The Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS)
Iris recognition can now be used to pass through immigration at some UK airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick. Registered users are able to go through a dedicated line that should move much more quickly than the usual passport control queues. Instead of presenting their passport, the passenger’s iris is scanned by a machine which compares the data received with information held on record about the passenger.
IRIS is currently available to registered users who are over the age of 18 and are British residents or citizens, or EEA or Swiss citizens. Some visa holders are also eligible for the system. It is free to register for IRIS and should take no more than about 10 minutes. Registration is done when a passenger is leaving the UK after they have gone through passport control and security screening.