Arriving in the UK

What to expect when arriving in the UK

You've secured your place. You've organised your visa. You're all packed and ready to go. But what happens when you arrive in the UK?

Read on and learn what to expect so you can arrive feeling confident and well-prepared.

Arriving at the airport – immigration control

When you arrive at the airport, you will go through immigration control first before collecting your luggage. Don't worry – this is just routine, but it's helpful to be prepared and have the correct documents at hand.

Documents to keep in your hand luggage

  • passport (containing your student visa) and ID card if applicable
  • your offer letter from UWE Bristol
  • UWE Bristol Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies documents
  • evidence of your funding – your sponsor letter or bank statement used to obtain your visa
  • details of where you are going to stay.

These must be paper documents (not on an electronic tablet or mobile phone).

The immigration control process

On arrival, follow the signs to either the eGates, or to speak to a Border Control Officer.

Who can use eGates?

UK Border Force recommend you use the eGates if you are aged over 12 and you are:
  • an EEA or Swiss national travelling on a biometric passport; or
  • a national of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the United States of America, travelling on a biometric passport and entering the UK to study for more than six months (typically on a Tier 4 visa) or you have an entry clearance (a sticker in your passport) permitting short term study; or
  • a subscriber to the Registered Traveller service.

Who will be interviewed by a Border Force officer?

You must speak to a Border Force officer if you are:

  • a national of any country not listed under eGates above; or
  • travelling on a non-biometric passport; or
  • travelling on a national ID card; or
  • travelling with a child under 12 years old; or
  • a national of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the United States of America and you are entering the UK for short term study of up to six months without an entry clearance (a sticker in your passport); or
  • the family member of an EEA national and you are seeking to join them permanently in the UK.

When you enter (or re-enter) the UK on a Tier 4 visa, the Border Force Officer must check that you speak English at the required level, without needing an interpreter. They will ask questions about your arrival in the UK. There is no test involved.

Before you leave Immigration Control, you should check that your documents have been stamped correctly.

  • If you have a visa or other entry clearance, the Border Force Officer should put a date stamp in your passport (unless you use an eGate).
  • If you are a non-visa national coming for a course lasting less than six months and do not have entry clearance, you will be stamped in as a Short Term Student (STS).

After immigration control, you can collect your luggage.


After you have collected your luggage you must go through customs control and join the appropriate queue:

  • green channel – if you have nothing to declare
  • red channel – if you have items to declare
  • blue channel – if you have arrived from an airport within the European Union (EU) where you have already cleared all your baggage through Customs Control.

If you are travelling to the UK from a country outside the European Union and you are carrying the equivalent of 10,000 Euros or more in any currency (in cash, banker's draft or cheque of any kind) you must declare this at Customs Control. You will find the appropriate forms when you arrive.

You must keep a copy of the completed form as evidence that you have made a declaration. You may receive a very large fine if you do not make this declaration, or if you provide incorrect or incomplete information.

If you are carrying more than the permitted duty/tax-free allowances, or any prohibited items (such as drugs, offensive weapons, food or plants from outside the European Union, or medicines made from endangered species) you must pass through the red channel.

What items you must declare

Read the UK government advice about travelling to the UK: what you can bring, what you can't, what you must declare.

Normally, you should not bring food into the UK. Many of the foods you usually eat at home can easily be found in UK shops. Find out more about bringing food products into the UK.

Even if you pass through the green channel a Customs Officer can ask you to open your baggage for checking.

If you arrive at one of the channel ports you will also have to pass through customs control. If you use the Channel Tunnel, customs control will be carried out either in France or on the train.

You might also want to read the UK Border Force's 10 Top Tips for passing through immigration and customs control on arrival in the UK.

Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit

The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card is a requirement for all students entering the UK on the Tier 4 student visa.

When you apply for your visa, you must give the Alternative Location Code (ALC) which confirms UWE Bristol as your BRP card collection point. The ALC for UWE Bristol is 2HE567.

Please refer to the Home Office letter issued to you upon receipt of your Tier 4 Visa Entry Clearance Vignette. This letter is usually attached to your passport but may be found within the documents returned to you from the Visa Application Centre. The letter will provide you with information regarding the collection of your BRP card from inside the UK.

You will receive further information regarding the collection of your BRP from the University should you choose to use UWE Bristol as your BRP collection point.

Find out more about BRPs.

Police registration

People of certain nationalities who come to the UK for more than six months must register with the police. Read more about police registration.

Renting accommodation

If you choose to rent private accommodation in England you must prove to your landlord that you have the 'Right to Rent'. For Tier 4 students, this means showing a passport containing a valid visa or a valid BRP.

Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the United States of America who enter the UK using an eGate should retain evidence that they travelled to or entered the UK within the last six months. This evidence has to be presented to the landlord, letting agent or host family with their passport as they may not be able to rent without it. This is because they will not receive a stamp in their passport on arrival.

Acceptable evidence of entry to the UK may include a boarding card, ticket or booking confirmation for travel to the UK within the last six months. Any other documentary evidence that establishes their date of arrival is also acceptable. A photocopy, photograph, screenshot or scanned copy of the evidence that includes the traveller’s name and/or passport number is also acceptable.

Read more about Right to Rent checks in our guide (PDF).

You may also find the government’s own guidance helpful.