Entering or leaving the UK is usually straightforward and hassle-free, save for the occasional inconvenience of long queues at passport control and security.
A referendum result in the UK in June 2016 that favoured withdrawal from the EU renders information in this section highly liable to change; it's important to check the current regulations before travel.
Britain has a two-tier customs system: one for goods bought duty-free outside the EU; the other for goods bought in another EU country where tax and duty is paid. The UK’s 2016 decision to leave the EU (widely known as ‘Brexit’) may eventually lead to a change in these arrangements, but it will be some time before the details are known.
Following is a summary of the current rules; for more details go to www.gov.uk and search for 'Bringing goods into the UK'.
Duty-free The duty-free limit for goods from outside the EU includes 200 cigarettes or equivalent in cigars, 4L of wine, 1L of spirits, 60cc of perfume and other goods worth up to £390.
Tax and duty paid There is no limit on goods from within the EU (if taxes have been paid), but customs officials use the following guidelines to distinguish personal use from commercial imports: 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 10L of spirits, 90L of wine and 110L of beer. Still enough to have one hell of a party.
Generally not needed for stays of up to six months. Not a member of the Schengen Zone.
- If you're a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA) nations or Switzerland, you don't need a visa to enter or work in the UK – you can enter using your national identity card.
- Visa regulations are always subject to change, and immigration restriction is big news in the UK, so it's essential to check with your local British embassy, high commission or consulate before leaving home.
- At the time of research, if you're a citizen of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, the USA and several other countries, you can stay for up to six months (no visa required), but are not allowed to work.
- Nationals of many countries, including South Africa, will need to obtain a visa: for more info, see www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.
- The Youth Mobility Scheme (www.gov.uk/tier-5-youth-mobility), for Australian, Canadian, Japanese, Hong Kong, Monégasque, New Zealand, South Korean and Taiwanese citizens aged 18 to 30, allows working visits of up to two years, but must be applied for in advance.
- Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born parent may be eligible for a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode, which entitles them to live and work in the UK.
- Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born grandparent could qualify for a UK Ancestry Employment Certificate, allowing them to work full time for up to five years in the UK.
- British immigration authorities have always been tough; dress neatly and carry proof that you have sufficient funds with which to support yourself. A credit card and/or an onward ticket will help.