Immigration and Customs
Arriving in the UK
We took a red-eye flight and landed at Heathrow at 7:15 AM on a weekday, along with what seemed like 2,000 of our closest friends. That might sound like an exaggeration, but it took nearly an hour to get to the counter. It sucked. We were tired, cranky, nervous, and surrounded by people. Also, I hadn’t used the bathroom before getting in line, which is not an error I’ll be making again.
You’ll need to have your passport with you (duh) but also the letter that is included when your visa is returned. It explains in more detail your visa. The immigration agent who checked us in explained the system and process very kindly. Also, as I mentioned in the visa section, do NOT go to the e-gates, despite them saying people with US passports should use them. You need to talk to a human and get your paperwork checked.
By the time we got through, our luggage had been offloaded and removed from the carousel. We weren’t stopped at customs for inspection, so we got out the door at arrivals and were met by our ride to our temporary housing.
The Final Step
Within ten days of arriving in the UK, you’ll need to pick up your biometric residency permit. It’ll be at a post office close to the address you provided in your visa application as your temporary residency, and it’ll only take a few minutes to get. Bring your passports and your immigration letters, and you’ll be given these little credit-card sized permits with a (if you’re me, very unflattering) photo of you and some details about your visa, including:
- Dates that the visa is valid for
- National Insurance number
- Limitations on work (I, for example, am not allowed to work in sports broadcasting, I think)
- The fact that you are not eligible for benefits
You are not required to carry this with you as you move about the UK, but you will need to show it whenever you return to the UK from traveling abroad. I recommend sticking it in your passport so you always have it with you when you go away.