Immigration on arrival

Last modified: 16 August 2018

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, your will go through UK immigration control in France before you board the Eurostar.

Going through immigration control

Last modified: 18 May 2018

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 ePassport gates if your passport has a ‘chip’ (however, you should not do this if you are a non-visa national applying as a short-term student at the border, as you will need to ensure you get a stamp which makes clear that you are a short-term student). Make sure you join the correct queue. A border force officer will look at your passport and check your visa/entry clearance.

When you enter (or re-enter) the UK with Tier 4 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 Tier 4 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; or (if you are a non-visa national coming for a course of six months or less and do not have entry clearance) check that you have been stamped in as a 'short-term student'. 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 created a short film with advice about preparing for the UK border, including having landing cards ready and who is eligible to use ePassport gates.