Two students in Bristol city centre

Arriving in the UK

This page provides advice and guidance on what documents you need when arriving in the UK as an international student and what to expect when going through immigration and customs.

For more information about what you need to know before arriving in the UK and when you arrive in the UK see our New International Students web pages. You can also refer to the following Border Force document:

Arriving at the airport - immigration control

If you arrive at an airport, you pass through immigration control first before collecting your luggage.

Documents to keep in your hand luggage

You should have in your hand luggage the following documents:

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

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

The immigration control process

  • There are usually two main queues: one for European Economic Area and Swiss nationals, and one for everyone else. Make sure you join the correct queue.
  • A Border Force Officer will look at your passport and check your Visa/Entry Clearance and landing card, which your airline should have given you to complete.
  • When you enter (or re-enter) the UK with Tier 4 immigration permission, the Border Force Officer must be satisfied that you speak English at the required level, without needing an interpreter. This will not involve any kind of test but regular questions about your arrival in the UK.
  • Before you leave Immigration Control, check that the Border Force Officer has put a date stamp (if you had a Visa or Entry Clearance) in your passport; or (if you are a non-visa national coming for a course of less than six months and do not have Entry Clearance) check that you have been stamped in as a 'Student Visitor'. After immigration control, you will be able to collect your baggage.


When you have found all your baggage you must pass through customs control.

  • Join the queue for the green channel if you have nothing to declare, the red channel if you have goods to declare, or the 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 are carrying the equivalent of 10,000 Euros or more in any currency (in cash, banker's draft or cheque of any kind) you will be required to declare this at Customs Control.
  • Forms on which to make the declaration will be available when you arrive. You must keep a copy of the completed form as evidence that you have made a declaration. Please note that a very large fine can be imposed if you do not make this declaration, or provide incorrect or incomplete information.
  • If you are carrying more than the permitted duty/tax-free allowances, or any prohibited goods (eg drugs, offensive weapons, food or plants from outside the European Union, medicines made from endangered species etc) you must pass through the red channel.

What items you must declare

If you are not sure about what you can bring into the UK you should check with the British Embassy or High Commission in your home country before travelling to the UK. Before you contact them, you can obtain some very basic information from the following leaflet:

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:

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 look at 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.

There are some small changes to the Biometric Residence Permit card collection process, which now mean you can collect your BRP card from the UWE campus rather than the nearest post office.

When you apply for your BRP card you will be asked to insert a unique code called the Alternative Location Code (ALC) to designate UWE as your BRP card collection point. The UWE ALC is 2HE567.

When you arrive in the UK you will be given 10 days to collect the BRP card, which will be allocated to you on campus. Details of where on campus will be communicated to you via in your registration information.

There is a day-to-day need for these cards especially during the immediate registration period, and so it is important to prioritise collecting the card. In some cases you could be fined if you do not pick up your card within 10 days of arrival.

Police registration

The condition to register with the police is given to people of certain nationalities who come to the UK for more than six months. You can check the list of countries whose nationals need to register in Appendix 2 of the Immigration Rules.

If you have been studying on a course of less than six months and progress to a new course that will last longer than six months, check your new vignette, BRP or letter which will tell you whether or not you need to register with the Police. If any doubt, please contact an Immigration Adviser.

If you are required to register, the condition will always be printed on your vignette, your BRP or the letter that you received when your passport was returned to you by UK Visas and Immigration. You must register with the police within seven days of arriving in the UK. There is a registration fee of £34. When you register, you will receive a Police Registration Certificate. For further details please see our 'responsibility for your Tier 4 (General) visa web page.

Renting accommodation

International students renting private accommodation in England must prove to their landlord that they have the ‘Right to Rent’. For Tier 4 students this means showing a passport containing a valid visa or a valid Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). Read more about this in our guide on 'right to rent' checks.

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

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