uk-border-control

Layovers and transiting through a UK airport

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Passing through a UK airport while on the way to another country is called ‘transiting’. Some travellers call it a ‘layover’.

There are 2 types of transiting:

  • ‘airside’ – you don’t pass through UK border control before you leave on your connecting journey
  • ‘landside’ – you do pass through UK border control, but come back through it and leave the UK within a short amount of time (usually 24 hours)

Find out if you need a UK visa for your layover.

Baggage checks

You must co-operate if you’re stopped and asked about your baggage.

If you break the rules your goods and any vehicle you use to transport them may be seized.

If your baggage is checked

Your baggage is usually checked 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

If your things are damaged

You may be offered compensation if your baggage or belongings are damaged during a customs check.

Making a complaint

You can:

At border control

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Your passport or identity card will be checked.

You must:

  • have your passport or identity card ready – remove it from a holder or wallet if you use one
  • remove your sunglasses if you’re wearing them
  • move through passport control together if you’re in a family

Arriving by bus or coach

You have to leave the bus when you arrive at border control.

Make sure you:

  • are ready to get off the bus when you arrive
  • have your travel documents ready

Read the guidance for school parties and groups coming to the UK by coach.

You’re from an EEA country and Switzerland

You can use the EU/EEA channel to get your passport or identity card checked – this is usually faster than the other channels.

You can use automatic ePassport gates at some airports if your passport has a ‘chip’ on it and you’re over 18.

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

You’re from a non-EEA country

Your carrier will give you a landing card – fill this in before you arrive at border control.

Your passport, landing card (and visa if you have one) will be checked.

You’ll usually be asked why you’re coming to the UK.

Keep documents that show the reason for your visit in your hand luggage, so you can show them if asked, eg your travel itinerary, work permit or university letter.

Registered travellers

If you’ve joined the Registered Traveller Service, you can use the:

  • UK/EEA channels
  • automatic ePassport gates if your passport has a ‘chip’

You won’t need a landing card at some UK airports.

Travelling with a UK biometric visa

You’ll have a biometric visa if your fingerprints were taken when you applied.

Your fingerprints will be checked at border control – they’ll be checked against the ones stored on your visa document.

If you’re refused entry

You’ll be told in writing:

  • 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 must report to immigration officers at set times.

Before you leave for the UK

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Check what documents you’ll need to enter the UK.

You’re from an EEA country or Switzerland

You can enter the UK with either a valid passport or a national identity card issued by a EEA country. It must be valid for the whole of your stay.

You’re not from an EEA country

You must have a valid passport to enter the UK. It must be valid for the whole of your stay.

You may also need a visa, depending on which country you’re from.

Check if you need a visa to enter the UK.

You may also need a visa if you’re ‘transiting’ or travelling through the UK, eg you’re changing flights at a UK airport.

Applying for a visa

You must apply for your visa before you arrive in the UK.

Travelling with children

You may be asked at the border to prove the relationship between yourself and any children travelling with you, if you don’t seem to be the parent, eg 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

Before you board

Your ‘carrier’ (eg airline or transport provider) will check your passport and other travel documents. They’ll send this information electronically to Border Force.

You can ask to see the information about you that’s been sent by carriers. You’ll have to pay a £10 fee.

Entering the UK

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Your passport or identity card will be checked when you arrive at a UK port or airport to make sure you’re allowed to come into the country. It must be valid for the whole of your stay.

You may also need a visa to come into or travel through the UK, depending on your nationality.

There has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum.

What you can bring with you depends on where you’re travelling from. You must declare to customs:

  • anything over your duty-free allowance
  • banned or restricted goods in the UK, eg meat and dairy products from most non-EU countries
  • goods that you plan to sell
  • more than €10,000 (or its equivalent) in cash, if you’re coming from outside the EU

You and your baggage may be checked for anything you must declare.