Dear Mr Bassie:
I have been successful in obtaining a visitor's visa to the United Kingdom and this is the first time that I will be travelling there. What can I expect on arriving in the country, and do you have any suggestions that would assist me in not being held any longer than necessary when I arrive and am being processed? I look forward to your response.
Thank you for your email.
This is quite appropriate because, depending on when you travel to the United Kingdom, it is likely that you might run into delays at the border and there are a number of steps that can be taken in order to avoid any unnecessary delays.
It is important that false or misleading information is never given to a United Kingdom Border Agency officer and this includes any false receipts or documents. Also, on entering the United Kingdom, a valid passport or travel document is to be produced and one must also be produced for any child that is accompanying the visitor. It is also worth noting that, if the visitor has a different family name or is not the child's parent, then the British authorities may ask for proof of the visitor and child's relationship or a letter of travel consent from the parent.
You should also be aware that some items that are for sale in another country may quite possibly not be permitted to be brought into the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is imperative that a person travelling to the United Kingdom be aware of the rules on restricted or banned items. Remember, it may be necessary to obtain a licence to take some prescription medicines into the United Kingdom.
There are some restrictions on food products that a person can take into the United Kingdom from outside the European Union, even that which is being taken in for personal use. For example, a person cannot take in meat or dairy products from most non-European Union countries. There are also restrictions on fish products, egg and honey products, some fruit and vegetables, and some plants and plant products such as bulbs, seeds, cut flowers and tree bark. Also, please be reminded that a person is not allowed to bring internationally protected endangered animals and plants, or any products made from them, into the United Kingdom without a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species permit.
In addition, a person travelling into the United Kingdom must not under any circumstances bring in any counterfeit goods, illegal drugs and/or offensive weapons, and this includes knives and he or she must not bring in any indecent or obscene material. Also, on entering the country, a person must declare any sums of cash in excess of €10,000, or the equivalent in another currency, if he or she is travelling from a country outside of the European Union.
Furthermore, you should note that there are allowances on the amount of goods such as tobacco, alcohol and gifts that may be brought into the United Kingdom. However, if there is any uncertainty as to any item that is being considered to be taken into the United Kingdom, then the United Kingdom Border Agency should be consulted prior to travelling there. Remember, it is illegal to carry items that are banned or for which a licence or permit is needed and one has not been obtained. If someone is caught smuggling, he or she could face severe delays and penalties, including imprisonment.
Just for completeness, if a European Union citizen is over the age of 18 and has a passport with a readable chip, then he or she will be able to use the United Kingdom e-passport gates at 15 of the major United Kingdom airports. This is a self-service secure alternative to the British conventional border controls.
I hope you enjoy your visit.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (U.K.). Email: email@example.com