View Full Version : US and UK citizen travelling together: UK passport control
15th Jun 2012, 08:47
Will try and keep to the facts and hope someone who might have gone through this will offer some advice!
I'm a UK citizen with a UK passport living in the US and have a green card. My girlfriend is a US citizen with a US passport. She is also disabled and requires wheelchair assistance if a lot of walking is required. We are not married and don't live together but will be traveling to the UK later this year for what I hope will be a dream trip for her. We will be arriving at Heathrow - terminal 3 or 5 - I don't know which yet as the flights are not booked. I have not traveled with her to the UK before so this will be a new experience.
So now that's out of the way, does anyone know how we should deal with things when it comes to passport control? Do we have to go through separate passport lanes even if we're traveling on the same booking? I suspect so, but since I'll be making all the arrangements for flights, hotels and car rental it would make things so much easier if we both passed through immigration together. Is that possible? Then there's the disabled/wheelchair thing. Of course I don't mind pushing the wheelchair but if we go into separate lines, is assistance available for that bit?
Just in case anyone thinks of it, I'm aware she'll have to fill out the landing card, but my main concern is whether I have to leave her alone to deal with immigration or if there's any way we can go through together.
Many thanks to anyone who can offer some advice. I've spent ages looking through the UK Border Agency web pages and can't find anything that helps with this specific situation.
15th Jun 2012, 09:09
Suggest, it might well be worth trying to contact the UK Border / Immigration Authorities directly yourself. If you explain your situation, exactly as you have in your post here on Prune, I would like to think, you should get a reply & hopefully helpful advice.
There should be some contact, either e mail, fax, etc on the web site, that you can use. Sorry I can't be any more practical help, but I would suggest, a direct approach by yourself would be worth a try.
Best of luck & have a good time in the UK
15th Jun 2012, 09:11
Common sense (which I appreciate may not apply to the UKBA) would suggest that you both go to the non-EU section together.
I can't see why they would then insist that you abandon your girlfriend and send you to the back of the EU line, it surely can't be the first time a non-EU passport holder has arrived in a wheelchair beng pushed by an EU citizen.
15th Jun 2012, 09:16
My Thai wife queues with me in the EU citizens line with no problems. Her passport is Thai and still in her maiden name.
15th Jun 2012, 09:24
My wife is a US passport holder and I a UK passport holder. Whenever we travel to the UK we both pass through non-EU passports together, and in the US we both pass through US passports.
Neither country have insisted on us separating for our respective queues. It works out to our benefit usually as non-EU passports is often a quiet queue, as is the US passports queue; especially on more touristy routes. Though Heathrow near the Olympics will be packed regardless...
Hope it's a great vacation.
15th Jun 2012, 09:29
kaikohe76 - appreciate the reply, but when going through the UKBA webpages there are several contact pages but nothing that actually gives you an opportunity for a simple enquiry for, e.g., passport lanes or traveling with a non-UK citizen. So far I haven't even found a phone number but might not have searched enough. Thanks for the reply though.
DaveReidUK - yeah, I'm concerned common sense won't apply though. I travel through UK and US immigration all the time (albeit alone) and it's rare I see it.
Thai Pom - problem is you're talking about your wife - that's family. My situation is different, we can't pass through immigration as husband and wife. Thanks anyway!
15th Jun 2012, 09:32
iamthetroll - thanks again, but think the problem is different here, we're not husband and wife so are not traveling as family. Thanks for the wishes though, it'll be a great trip!
15th Jun 2012, 09:41
Most officers don't care unless they are having a bad hair day. I have passed thru immigration with a UK passport holder int he UK passport line and the person was a business colleague so no issue. Same in the EU, Canada and US they most times are ok processing people traveling together regardless of the line that you are in. :cool:
15th Jun 2012, 10:34
Are you planning to book a wheelchair for your girlfriend? If you do you will probably find you're taken to a separate queue (often not very long) and you'll pass through together.
15th Jun 2012, 11:18
Hartington - yes, planning to book a wheelchair or at least telling the airline we need one. Didn't even think that might change things. Thank you! Definitely something I can now look into.
Definitely tell the airline that you require assistance for your companion. Under EU regulations the AIRPORT (in the EU) is required to provide assistance, at the US airport it is the airline that must provide assistance.
They should meet you at the aircraft with a wheelchair and wii take the two of you through immigration, help you with your checked bags, and deliver you to your chosen transport from the airport. (i.e. Taxi rank, train platform, car park, etc.)
The airport doesn't want their staff waiting in queues ( that's for the punters) so they will get you through as quickly as possible.
I (non-EU) used to accompany my British wife through the EU queue, until I got a right bollocking for doing so. My wife now comes with me through the All Passport queue. Note that it says "all passports", not all "other" passports.
Make sure you request assistance at least 48 hours in advance, Assistance is not guaranteed if you don't, although they should "make all efforts".
15th Jun 2012, 17:53
I would agree with the poster who suggests you get assistance at the airport for the wheelchair aspect - I'm almost certain it will be provided.
However, Mrs Strake and I travelled extensively to the USA before she became a UK citizen and we always used the EU desks when returning. In over thirty trips we never had a problem. If you are arriving into T3 or T5 on an early morning flight, Non-EU is not the place to be queuing.
16th Jun 2012, 06:55
Thanks again for your help, everyone!
20th Jun 2012, 08:08
Have a UK passport and girlfriend at the time (now wife) was US citizen. Travelled back and forth dozens of times to Heathrow, Gatwick, Madrid, Frankfurt, etc. Went through US citizen lane in the US and non-EU citizen lane in Europe with her every time. Never a problem. We just assumed it was ok to do so, never really gave it much thought. Now that you mention it, maybe we should have asked--but it was never a problem. With wheelchair, you will be processed in a separate lane--no problem. I was in a wheelchair for two trips--knee problems.
No need to worry about this. They have couples in your situation all the time, and are happy to accommodate.
27th Jun 2012, 07:44
Again, I'd like to thank everyone for their help but in particular ExXB. One recent concern I had is about the difference between the US and the UK/EU. We've flown together in the US and I just told the airline when booking the flights that we need assistance and they always helped, but see there's a difference between the US and UK where in the latter case it's the airport's responsibility, not the airline's.
However, having looked a little further on BAA's website, I now see they don't deal directly with assistance requests but it has to be done via the airline (who then, I hope, pass on the request to BAA). This is great because this is how I've always done it and know the process, I just hadn't done it before for a flight arriving in another country. Obviously there's an additional layer of things that could go wrong but at least it seems I just have to go through the airline and nothing else.
Well, I'm sure it'll be an interesting trip, not least because this might test the codeshare agreement between AA and BA and their relationship with BAA but again thanks for everyone's help. I also look forward to the bollocking I'll get at passport control if I get this wrong!
The EU Regulation indeed does assign responsibility to the airports (in Europe). This was because the EU was concerned that if left to the airlines they would not provide a consistent level of service at no direct cost to the passenger. Don't know why they thought some airlines (or category of airlines) would provide a lower level of service, or charge for it ... :eek: The network airlines initially opposed this idea, saying they preferred to look after their own customers. DG-TREN was not impressed.
However the Regulation requires the customer to request the assistance through the airline, at time of booking (where possible). Which makes sense as the airlines have standards and procedures for this and it took little effort (at least for the network airlines) to include the airports into their existing rules. The LCCs had to come up with their own processes, but by all accounts the rules are working.
I think the biggest challenges for PRMs (passengers with reduced mobility) in Europe is the carriage of their mobility equipment, and the relatively high level of loss or damage to this. If you are taking a wheelchair (or similar) you should (also at time of booking) advise the airline. Be prepared to answer questions about the size, weight, type (wet or dry cells), etc. Your airline may not accept wet cells (dangerous goods) but you are better knowing this in advance, not at the airport.
The EU regulation also requires the airline to carry two (FREE) pieces of mobility equipment for a PRM. This does not include an extra suitcase(s) though. This, in theory, should apply to non-EU airlines flights to the EU but your mileage may vary. Check with the airline first.
You can find the EC's web-page on the Regulation Transport: Persons with reduced mobility (PRM) - legislation in force since 2007 - European commission (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/prm_en.htm)
here. Also follow the link from there to the PRM guidelines issued a couple of months ago.
27th Jun 2012, 10:03
Thanks, ExXB, really do appreciate this. My partner can walk but not very far. In the US we've asked for a wheelchair from the check in desk to the plane and from the plane back out to arrivals. They've always been good about this (well, UA haven't but AA have). As you can probably guess from this we won't be travelling with a wheelchair or O2 or anything like that, but will need assistance.
I think you've told me everything I need to know. Thank you so much! Just tonight Pam (my partner) told me she can't believe this is happening. She's been through so much in the last few years (lupus, cancer, diabetes, you name it, she has it) this is going to be a magical trip for her and, as a UK citizen, I don't want the whole thing ruined on arrival. Then again Bracknell is our first stop...
(My mum lives there so can't really avoid it!).
I travel between the US and the UK a lot but so far always on my own. Recently it's been unpleasant with long queues but have not had to worry about someone else so this is a real load off my mind!
27th Jun 2012, 19:18
I travel a lot alone and have ended up in just about every long queue going. However, last year for the first time I travelled with a family member who uses a wheelchair. What I thought was going to be a difficult and stressful journey was actually the opposite. We were extremely well looked after every step of the way by airlines and airports alike, and I was impressed with how smoothly it all went. I hope yours goes as well.
4th Jul 2012, 08:56
Hi, just so you know, you can queue in the EU only line. I did this several times with my UK husband before I got citizenship.
31st Dec 2012, 07:27
Sorry to reply to such an old thread, but wanted to thank everyone again for their advice, suggestions and reassurance!
I booked the trip this summer (using AA air miles) between LA and HNL. First flight was LAX to ORD (AA) then to LHR (BA). The return trip was LHR to SEA (BA) and then to LAX (Alsaka). All flights were 1st class apart from the LHR-SEA leg which was business. As I mentioned, my girlfriend is able to walk but not far and needed wheelchair assistance. I requested wheelchair assistance when I booked the flights and also called the airlines a few days beforehand to confirm that they had my request in the system.
Well, what a fantastic trip! Someone with a wheelchair was waiting for us everywhere and other than having to deal with a very inexperienced assistant in Chicago everything went very smoothly (NB. for AA/BA codeshare passengers, you can't take a wheelchair between terminal 3 and the international terminal via the air-side shuttle). When it came to immigration at Heathrow (T5) we were taken to a separate lane where it didn't matter which nation we came from (as Hartington attested to). After picking up our bags we were taken to the land-side BA lounge where we could have a shower and have breakfast before picking up our hire car.
The next three weeks in the UK were wonderful, best vacation we've had in years!
On the return trip, we were again helped all the way; from arrivals, through security and to the BA business class lounge and then to the gate. The flight departed 90 minutes late and because our original schedule had 2.5 hours between flights in Seattle I thought we wouldn't make the connecting flight. We arrived with less than an hour to go, were whisked through a separate immigration line, luggage was picked up and dropped off, took three train journeys underneath Seattle airport and arrived at the gate with time to spare.
Everyone who helped us with the wheelchair got very generous tips I should add!
It was a fantastic experience even though superstorm Sandy threatened the whole trip (our original BA flight from ORD to LHR was cancelled, but they got us seats on an earlier flight).
Thanks again to everyone for their replies and I just now need to find a way to make this happen again, my girlfriend fell in love with the UK! Incidentally, this was a 50th birthday present for her, so am so grateful it all worked out so well!
2nd Jan 2013, 18:00
Glad everything went well for you!
Just to chime in, I am originally from the UK living in the US with my American wife. We went back to the UK this Christmas with my American mother-in-law and British passport control were more than happy to have us all enter through the EU entry port. Interestingly in the times I have traveled back and forth from the UK I always find British passport control to be much more friendly and approachable than its US counterparts so I wonder whether we would be allowed to do this if the situation was reversed.
Just to chime in, I am originally from the UK living in the US with my American wife. We went back to the UK this Christmas with my American mother-in-law and British passport control were more than happy to have us all enter through the EU entry port. Interestingly in the times I have traveled back and forth from the UK I always find British passport control to be much more friendly and approachable than its US counterparts so I wonder whether we would be allowed to do this if the situation was reversed. My wife is a US citizen I am British and we live in UK.
We were advised by a US Immigration official at Atlanta to always queue together in the (usually shorter) US citizen line as this gave them the opportunity to interview us together and obtain any information needed irrespective of nationality