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.
Border Force has launched the Registered Traveller Scheme. It applies to regular visitors, who are citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and USA. Initially, only individuals from these countries who are registered for IRIS and are short term visitors to the UK will be eligible to apply for the scheme. Registered travellers will be eligible to use the EEA nationals lane and therefore go through the border more quickly.
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, 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.