Immigration And Visa Requirements
EUEEA and Swiss citizens do not require a visa, and can enter with either a valid national identity card or passport. They have the right to reside and work in the UK. Irish, Cypriot and Maltese citizens have additional rights, including being able to vote in and stand in UK Parliamentary elections. That said, it is better to use a biometric passport, because only this document is accepted for the e-gates. Travelers entering with an identity card even if biometric will have to stand in the regular UK/EU queue, which can be but not necessarily is lengthy.
Citizens of Anguilla, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, East Timor, El Salvador, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Montserrat, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Solomon Islands, Saint Lucia, Saint Helena, Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tristan da Cunha, Tuvalu, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uruguay, United States, Vanuatu, Vatican City and Venezuela holders of Venezuelan biometric passports only require passports for entry, but do not require a visa for visits of up to 6 months. Once in the UK, they are not allowed to work or access public funds e.g. claiming state benefits. If citizens of these countries/territories wish to stay in the UK for purposes other than a tourist, businessperson or student visitor i.e. a visitor studying for up to 6 months or wish to stay for more than 6 months in the UK, they will need to apply for an entry clearance i.e. a visa before travelling to the UK. Citizens of these countries/territories who do intend to stay in the UK as a student visitor should ensure that their passport is endorsed with a stamp with either the code 'VST' or 'STV' at passport control, otherwise the education provider where they intend to study may refuse to accept them for enrolment.
Citizens of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates may apply for an Electronic Visa Waiver EVA, which is valid for tourism and study, and may stay for up to 6 months (https://www.gov.uk/govern...)
A visa also referred to by UK border officials as entry clearance is required for citizens of most other countries to enter the UK and a number of countries to transit the UK airside. This can be obtained from the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate where the applicant legally resides. Unless they are 6 years old or under or travelling directly to the Channel Islands and not passing through the UK or the Isle of Man, UK visa applicants are required to provide biometric data 10-digit fingerprints and a biometric digital photograph as part of the application process. As part of the visa application procedure, it is necessary to attend a UK visa application centre in person to provide your biometrics.
On 6th October 2014, the UK Home Secretary and Irish Minister for Justice and Equality signed an agreement that will allow Chinese and Indian Nationals access to the UK and Republic of Ireland using just a single visa by the end of 2014. This means that nationals of those two countries who apply for an eligible Irish visa in China or India after the scheme is rolled out won't need to apply for a separate UK visa to visit the UK if they will enter through the Republic of Ireland first. The reverse is also true: Chinese and Indian nationals those who apply for an eligible UK visa will no longer need to apply for an Irish visa to visit the Republic of Ireland provided they will enter through the UK first. Please see this website for details: (https://www.gov.uk/govern...) .
The United Kingdom has converted the previous visa categories except for the visitor and transit categories into a five-tiered points-based system PBS, meaning that you will be required to satisfy specific and non-negotiable criteria before the visa is issued. Points-based system visa fees are very high, so it may be wise to see if the purpose of your visit can be satisfied under a different, non-points based system visa. For example, if you want to stay in the UK for 11 months to study an English Language course, it would be cheaper to apply for a student visitor visa £140, rather than a Tier 4 student visa £255 - however, unlike the Tier 4 visa a student visitor visa does not entitle you to work whilst in the UK Tier 4 visa holders are allowed to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week.
Commonwealth citizens who are 17 or over and have a British grandparent or Irish grandparent before April 1922 can apply for an ancestry visa. This allows residency and work in the UK for five years. After five years, permanent residence indefinite leave to remain may be applied for; after 12 months of continuous permanent residence and five years of continuous residence in the UK, ancestry visa holders will be able to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. All Commonwealth citizens living in the UK regardless of what type of visa they hold and whether they have a British grandparent are eligible to vote in all elections.
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong British National (Overseas passport holders only), Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan can apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa the former Working Holiday visa for all young Commonwealth citizens has been discontinued. The Tier 5 YMS visa allows the holder to undertake a working holiday in the UK for 2 years from the date of issue. Only a limited number of visas are issued for each nationality -- in particular, demand far exceeds supply for Japan and Taiwan. Visit the UKVI webpage.
There are generally no immigration checks when entering the UK from Ireland. However, visitors who are not Irish or British citizens are still required to meet admission requirements, and should carry their passport with appropriate visa stamps if required.
All visitors aged 16 or above who are not EU, EEA or Swiss citizens or their family members in possession of a residence permit/card which gives them the freedom of movement in the EU, EEA and Switzerland nor Commonwealth citizens who have the right of abode in the UK must complete a landing card and present it at passport control, unless they are in direct transit to a destination outside the Common Travel Area i.e. not to the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Ireland.
Travellers subject to immigration control should expect to be asked by the immigration officer upon arrival to demonstrate that they have a) a return ticket to leave the United Kingdom or sufficient funds to meet the cost of an onwards plane ticket, b) a valid address at which they will be staying in the United Kingdom and c) sufficient funds with which to support themselves during their stay. They must demonstrate that they are entitled to the visa they have been issued back home or in the case of visa-free travellers, a genuine business visitor, family/friend visitor or tourist. An inability to demonstrate these three basics may lead to a refusal of leave to enter together with cancellation of any existing UK visa or a grant of restricted leave.
The United Kingdom is known to be somewhat more lax than some other countries when it comes to character concerns of visitors. Landing cards do not ask about prior convictions and border/ visa personnel seem to be more concerned about convictions inside the UK rather than those abroad. That said, if the border officer questions you about criminal history, you must answer truthfully.
If you're applying for a visa or entry clearance, you will have to list any criminal convictions as part of the application, although there are no hard and fast rules regarding who is admissible and who is not: each case is viewed on its own merits and a minor conviction long ago is unlikely to cause problems, especially if your behaviour since then has been good.
If you're applying for a visa, you are also required to disclose if you've ever:Declared bankruptcy, no matter how long ago. Been sued for debt i.e. a civil judgement. This is true even if you've satisfied paid the judgement or it is no longer legally collectable.The UKVI takes a dim view of both these situations, as there have been recent abuses of the UK banking and lending system by foreign visitors and immigrants, and unpaid debt or a bankruptcy abroad can be grounds for refusal. Like with criminality, each case is evaluated based on the totality of the circumstances and denial of entry or a visa for credit problems is very unlikely for visitors unless you owe money in the UK see below.
If you have more than £1,000 of unpaid debt in the UK, that is not in good standing, you cannot be issued a visa or granted entry until the debt is paid or satisfactory arrangements are in place to pay it.
For more information of UK immigration and visa requirements, see the UKVI website.
Eurostar high-speed trains run between London St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet and Ashford through the Channel Tunnel to Paris Gare du Nord, Lille Europe, Calais Fréthun and Brussels Zuid-Midi. During the summer an additional weekly train operates to Avignon and during the winter a weekly service runs a ski service direct to the French Alps. Through tickets and connections are available through Lille, Paris and Brussels from many European cities to most large UK cities.
Journey times to central London average two hours fifteen minutes from Paris and one hour fifty minutes from Brussels. A second class return from Paris to London costs between €85 and €230. While it can be cheaper to fly from London to Paris using a low-cost airline, bear in mind that the journeys to the airports can be expensive and time-consuming. When arriving in Calais, Lille, Paris or Brussels, there is no immigration or check - passengers simply walk onto the platform, then into the station. Transferring from the Eurostar to the metro/regional services can take less than 5 minutes, compared to over an hour from airports. Arriving in London's St.Pancras is slightly slower than on the continent, but it should still take less than 15 minutes from the Eurostar platform to the tube platform.
Passengers travelling by Eurostar to the UK from Paris Gare du Nord, Lille Europe, Calais Fréthun and Brussels Zuid-Midi stations undergo UK passport/identity card checks in France/Belgium before boarding, rather than on arrival in the UK. The UK passport checks take place immediately after the Schengen passport/identity card exit checks in the stations. However, UK customs checks take place on arrival in the UK. Eurostar passengers not travelling to the UK e.g. Brussels Zuid-Midi to Lille/Calais are not required to go through UK passport/identity card checks as such journeys are within the Schengen Area.
Multiple daily connections from Dutch cities are possible via Brussels and the Eurostar to London. It can be cheaper and more flexible to book an 'Any Dutch station' Eurostar ticket that permits connection to/from any Dutch station provided the itinerary doesn't use the more expensive Thalys or ICE services.
Combined train and ferry tickets are available to travellers from stations in the Netherlands to train stations in East Anglia, Essex and East London. This service may be a useful alternative to Eurostar for travellers from Northern Europe, or for those wishing to travel to East Anglia. The interchange between the ferry terminal and the train station at both ports is very simple and user friendly. Express trains from Harwich International are timed to meet the ferry and allow a simple transfer to London Liverpool Street. The Dutch Flyer website gives prices only for tickets purchased in Great Britain; it does, however, give timetable information. Stena's Dutch language website allows booking of tickets for journeys starting from the Netherlands.
Common Travel AreaIf you enter the United Kingdom through Ireland, you will pass through passport control at your port of entry into Ireland, but you are not required to clear UK passport control. However, you will only be limited to a stay of three months in the UK and Ireland or whatever the passport control officer in Ireland gives you a leave to remain for if you qualify for a visa exemption, not the usual six-month stay in the UK for visa-exempt nationals. Hence, especially if you attempt to enter the UK as a Student Visitor i.e. a visitor studying for up to 6 months, you should not transit through Ireland unless you possess a valid UK visa or entry clearance permitting a stay of more than three months or intend to stay in the UK for fewer than three months.
If you require a visa for either Ireland or the UK, however, you must possess a visa from each country that requires you to have one if you intend to visit both of them. Not passing through passport control does not exempt one from having a visa if needed, and you can be fined and deported for not having a visa if discovered.
In addition, no passport control checks are in place from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man to the UK.
The United Kingdom is physically linked to two other countries. The Channel Tunnel connects the UK to France and Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland.
While the UK is a member of the European Union, it does not fully implement the Schengen Agreement, which means that travel to and from other EU countries except Ireland involves systematic passport / identity card checks at the border and separate visa requirements for several countries.
Almost all passengers travelling to the UK from outside Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man go through systematic passport/identity card and selective customs checks carried out by UK Visas and Immigration UKVI on arrival in the UK. However, those travelling by Eurostar from Paris Gare du Nord, Lille Europe, Calais-Fréthun and Brussels Zuid-Midi stations and by ferry from Calais and Dunkirk undergo UK passport/identity card checks in France/Belgium before embarkation and selective customs checks on arrival in the UK. Those entering the UK by Eurotunnel from France go through both UK passport/identity card and UK customs checks in Coquelles before boarding the train.
Customs And Goods
The UK has relatively strict laws controlling which goods can and cannot be brought into the country. Selective customs checks are run by the UKVI at arrival ports. Particularly stringent laws apply to the movement of animals, except from within the EU, where an animal passport system operates, providing proof of vaccination against rabies. The British Isles are rabies-free, and the government and the people want to keep it that way. Signs in several languages are displayed prominently at even the smallest of boat landings all around the coast.
Owing to the abolition in 1993 of customs duty on goods for personal use when travelling across EU borders, it has become popular among the British to bring back large quantities of alcohol and tobacco bought at lower tax rates in Continental Europe. However, the practice is open to abuse, with organised criminals trying to illegally import large amounts for the purposes of selling on at a profit. Customs laws are therefore strict for the importing of alcohol and tobacco for non-personal use and if a Customs officer thinks that the amount you are trying to bring into the country from the EU is excessive, particularly if in a commercial vehicle as opposed to a private car, you may be questioned further, or be asked to prove that it is for your own consumption, although ultimately an EU citizen is backed by the EU's free trade laws and allowed unlimited personal quantities. The fines can be severe, and you also run the risk of the goods and the vehicle they are being transported in being confiscated. Importing an excessive amount of alcohol in a private car is more likely to result in action being taken for overloading the vehicle, which is a police matter rather than a customs matter.
Just as in the rest of the EU, you must declare if you are physically carrying at least €10,000 in cash or other financial instruments into or out of the EU through a UK airport. In addition, if you are carrying at least £1,000, you must also be able to show evidence that you are entitled to possess the money in case a customs officer has questions.
Most ports of entry that receive traffic from non-EU origins use the European Union's red/green/blue channel system. Ports of entry from EU origins are still manned by customs officers who take more of an interest in controlled substances e.g. illegal drugs than alcohol or tobacco.
Coaches are the cheapest way to travel to the UK from France and the Benelux. Eurolines offer daily services from Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels to London Victoria coach station. Daily overnight coaches and limited day coaches travel between the UK and Ireland. Connections are available to most parts of the UK via the domestic National Express coach network, for most destinations it is cheaper to purchase this when purchasing your Eurolines tickets as discounts are available. Journeys take about 8-14 hr.
Eurolines will also take you to/from other major European cities. Taking a budget flight is normally cheaper but with a greater environmental impact and spares you from a 24 hr+ bus journey.
Various other operators compete with Eurolines on some routes. Megabus competes with Eurolines buses between Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and London, with indirect connections from Italy, Luxembourg and Spain. Through fares are available to most parts of the UK via the domestic Megabus coach network.Other companies, such as Polonia Transport, compete with Eurolines between Eastern Europe and the UK; companies such as this usually come and go.
When flying to the UK you are most likely to arrive at one of London's five airports, although there are direct international flights to many other cities. KLM has a large number of feeder flights to almost every UK regional airport from its international hub in Amsterdam Schiphol.
Recently, many airports in southern England have added "London" to their names. Be aware that just because an airport has London in its name doesn't necessarily mean that it is near to, or easily accessible from, London. see London, by plane for more details...
Major airports outside of the London area:
Manchester Airport in the North of England is the UK's largest airport outside London, serving many European and a reasonable number of long-haul destinations. This could be a more convenient arrival airport for visitors to North Wales, the North of England and Scotland.
Outside London and Manchester, many of the regional airports offer a wide range of direct links to European and some long-haul destinations.
Birmingham International is the UK's seventh largest airport outside of London. The airport has good European services and some long haul services to far flung places. The airport is served by the major European flag carriers providing global hub connections, as well as LCC's such as Ryanair and Easyjet. It is an ideal gateway to Central England and Wales. Birmingham Airport also has a direct train route to London Euston journey times approximately 75 minutes on the fastest trains and is a hub for the low cost airline FlyBe. Advanced rail fares are often cheaper than standard fares from London to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted airports.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport, in North West England, is the UK's fastest-growing airport and is taking on more and more flights. Blackpool has an international airport nearby offering a lot of package-holiday flights.
Newcastle International Airport is the only airport in the North East of England offering a daily service to and from Dubai, with connecting flights into Australia and the far east, it is also a hub for easyjet, Thomson, Thomas Cook and Jet2, with flights available to over 100 destinations. Seasonal flights are available to New York with United's service to Newark New Jersey, operating five times a week.
Smaller regional airports include:
BristolEast Midlands, Exeter, Robin Hood, Carlisle, and Leeds Bradford all have cheap flights to mainland Europe with Ryanair, Jet2, easyJet and Flybe.
Southamptonand Bournemouth Airports are medium-sized, though they have bargain-price flights with Ryanair and Flybe and can be accessed from London Waterloo train station.
Norwichhas a busy route to Amsterdam, as well as Flybe flights across the UK.
Durham Tees Valleyformally called Teesside International before 2004 - some tickets and flight booking sites outside the UK still refer to it as Teesside and Humberside have KLM feeders via Amsterdam to the Skyteam worldwide network, and irregular low-cost and charter flights to European tourist destinations. Durham Tees Valley has a £6 'airport improvement fee', payable at the airport by departing passengers. Neither airport is easily accessible by public transport, apart from taxis.
Newquay Cornwall Airporthas a fluctuating number of flights in recent years, mainly due to a £5 'development fee' introduced in 2006, but is ideal for beating the traffic jams down to this beautiful part of Britain.
In the South-east there is London Ashford Airport, also known as Lydd Airport has rather seasonal, limited services as does Oxford Airport. Kent International Airport is similarly small.
In Scotland, the major airports with links to London and abroad are:
EdinburghScotland's busiest airport and the UK's sixth, with a wide variety of European and North American routes as well as a couple of recently introduced routes to Abu Dhabi and Doha, connecting the city with Asia, Africa and Australasia through these large Middle Eastern hubs
Glasgowhas two airports: Glasgow International for most major airlines and Glasgow Prestwick for Ryanair and some low-cost flights
Both the Orkney and Shetland Isles' airports have links to Scandinavia besides domestic flights in the UK.
Cardiff International, the only international airport in Wales, is a major hub of Flybe and Thomas Cook, which has a few long-haul flights, such as Barbados. Anglesey Airport is the only other noteworthy airport of Wales, which has one flight a day to the Isle of Man and Cardiff.
In Northern Ireland, Belfast International Airport and George Best City Airport both serve the province's capital. Belfast International has several North American long-haul flights, while Belfast City is very conveniently situated 19 minutes from the centre of Belfast by local bus. City of Derry Airport serves the northwest with a limited number of international and domestic flights.
Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey all have their own respective airports, with well-serviced flights from around the UK, as well as to France and further afield. Flying is probably more convenient than ferry to these islands.
Due to an increase in airport security and aviation security in general, long delays are possible when checking in for a flight. Additionally a passport or valid photo ID such as photo driving licence, national ID card, etc. is required for most internal flights.
See the city articles for more details on routes, timings and costs. Ferry routes to British Mainland
There are a large number of ferry routes into the UK from continental Europe. Newcastle serves a route from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Harwich has ferries from Esbjerg in Denmark and Hoek van Holland in the Netherlands. You can also sail from Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Zeebrugge in Belgium to Hull. There is a regular connection between Ramsgate and Oostende in Belgium. There are 4 sailings a day and prices vary between €50 to €84.
Dover is one of Britain's most popular passenger ports with sailings from Calais and Dunkirk in France. The Dover-Calais route is particularly busy, with three companies competing and up to 50 sailings per day. The ferry between Dover and Calais costs around £12-18 each way if on foot or bicycle, and around £80 for a car, although big discounts are available if booked in advance or with special offers. Passengers travelling from Calais or Dunkirk by ferry to the UK go through UK passport/identity card checks after French exit checks before boarding, and UK customs checks on arrival in the UK.
On the south coast, Portsmouth serves ferries from Le Havre, Caen, Cherbourg, St. Malo and Bilbao in Spain and there are speedy services between Dieppe and Newhaven. The other route from Spain is Santander to Plymouth, Plymouth also has ferries from Roscoff, Poole has ferries to Cherbourg as well as the Channel Islands.
From the Republic of Ireland, ports of entry include Pembroke, Fishguard and Holyhead and Swansea. There are sailings from Dublin to Holyhead, and Liverpool.
You can also hop onto one of the ships of the Cunard Line - they depart from New York every month or so. Prices start at around £900.
Freighter travel is also an option. As an example, Grimaldi Lines operates services from Italy, Cyprus, Israel, and Uruguay that allow up to 12 passengers to travel with their vehicles, in addition to a service from Nigeria, Benin and Côte d'Ivoire that carries 12 foot passengers only.
Combined Rail & Sail (http://www.sailrail.co.uk/) tickets are available from any railway station in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland to any railway station in Great Britain. Tickets can be bought from the railway company and ferry operators. Through tickets are available on most sea corridors.
Fares are slightly higher during July and August. Virgin Trains (http://www.virgintrains.c...) may be offering advance-purchase tickets from London to Dublin from £32 return, although these are hard to obtain and possible only for journeys starting in Great Britain.
The Channel Tunnel has provided a rail/road connection since 1994. Shuttle trains operated by Eurotunnel carry cars from Calais, France to Folkestone, the journey taking around 40 minutes. Fares start at £49 one way and can be booked on the Eurotunnel website (http://www.eurotunnel.com...). On arrival at Folkestone, you can drive on to the M20 motorway which heads towards London. Passengers travelling from France to the UK undergo UK passport/identity card and customs checks in Coquelles after the French exit checks before departure, rather than on arrival in the UK.
Car ferries also operate to many parts of the UK from other European countries - see the 'by boat' section below.
Drivers entering Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland will usually find they have done so without noticing. There are no border controls, and only the major roads will display signs stating that you are leaving one country and entering the other. However, the appropriate travel documents for your nationality are still required for cross-border travel despite the lack of border controls and you are liable under the laws of the country you are attempting to enter if you don't have any. It should be noted that road signs in the Republic of Ireland are in kilometres while those in Northern Ireland are in miles so it is advisable to take note of the differences in signs and road markings when driving in border areas.
When first entering the tunnel waiting zones at Folkestone or Calais, you need to choose the correct type of lane indicated by the symbols so that the machine, or booth is on the easiest side of your car for you to reach. As you exit the tunnel onto the M20 in England you will be reminded in three languages to drive on the left.