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Immigration and passports

Unless you are catching a connecting flight, your first stop will be passport control, which will be clearly signposted.

What to do at border control

There are two queues at passport control – one for European Union (EU)*, European Economic Area (EEA), British and Swiss nationals, and a second for all other nationalities.

At the passport desk a Border Force officer will ask to see your passport or travel document and any supporting documentation necessary for your visit. Please remember that your passport must not expire during your visit to the United Kingdom.

For information about entry requirements into the United Kingdom, please visit the Border Force website.

With tougher checks now in place at the border, you may have to wait a little longer to get into the United Kingdom, especially at peak times.

E-passport gates – arrivals made easy

Automated e-passport gates offer an alternative to conventional passport checks.

Simply scan your e-passport at the barrier. The system runs a face-recognition check against the chip in your passport, then if you're eligible to enter the UK the gate opens automatically – all in a matter of seconds.

You need to be over 18 and have an e-passport (look for the 'chip' logo on the front) issued by a country in the European Economic Area* or Switzerland.

Further information from the Border Force

Border Force's Registered Traveller Service

Fully enrolled Registered Travellers with a biometric chipped passport can use the ePassport gates at all Heathrow terminals.

The pilot RT service is open to former IRIS passengers, aged 18 and above, from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, who are either visiting the United Kingdom in one of the eligible categories or hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), Tier 1 (Investor, Entrepreneur and Exceptional Talent/Promise) or Tier 2 (Skilled Workers) leave and have travelled to the UK four times or more in the last twelve months.

Full details of the Registered Traveller service and how to apply online can be found at gov.uk/registered-traveller

Once fully enrolled Registered Travellers can be processed at the EEA controls at Heathrow and via the ePassport gates.

The is currently a free pilot service and new applications will be accepted until 31 August 2014, after which the service will be evaluated. Existing members will continue to enjoy the benefits until the evaluation is complete.

Stopovers in Britain

There is nowhere to sleep in the airport. If your booking includes a stopover in a local hotel, then follow the signs to Arrivals. Leave the airport via passport control, baggage reclaim and Customs, then check in as normal when it's time to continue your journey.

Please note that it is a Border Force requirement that all passengers entering the UK must present themselves to Immigration at the first port of call. Therefore it is important that your passport/visa allows you entry into the UK. You can apply for a 24-hour visa on arrival. This is at the discretion of the Immigration Officer, who must be satisfied that you have a confirmed booking of onward travel within 24 hours.

* The European Union and European Economic Area

EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU) but citizens of these countries have the same rights to enter, live in and work in the United Kingdom as EU citizens.