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Customs question crossing to Northern Ireland then continuing to Scotland

Hi - I plan to travel to Ireland in May for a week on a USA passport (tourist, no visa). But then I intend to take a train to Belfast, stay a night, then fly to Scotland to sightsee there & in England, before flying back to USA from London.

My question is: how do I meet up with UK customs in Belfast when arriving by train? I know there is no check at the border to Northern Ireland, but at some point I may need to show that my passport was stamped to enter the UK, so can I voluntarily choose to go through customs in Northern Ireland when arriving by train? If so, how/where do I go? Is customs available at Belfast's train station? Thank you!

Posted by
7303 posts

You likely will get no stamp (if they even stamp anymore).

Ireland and the UK share a Common Travel Area, so similar to Schengen, enter one, you enter all. Not that there may not be some passport check along the way, but do not expect a formal immigration queue. There is also no exit passport control for the UK, so no one will be looking for an entry stamp.

Posted by
4960 posts

There is no Customs/immigration at Belfast Lanyon Place station. You cannot voluntarily do so (why on earth would you?). There is not even the physical space at Lanyon Place to have such immigration checks, far less customs checks.

The same applies to Dublin Connolly if travelling in the opposite direction.

Entry stamps are for the Schengen area, of which the UK is not a part.

Even at Belfast airport when you show your passport it is merely to confirm your identity matches that of the name on the airline "ticket".

Posted by
851 posts

There are no passport controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland so you will not be checked at all. You also don’t need a passport to travel from Ireland to the UK mainland but you’ll be asked for ID to get on the plane.

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for the replies! But to clarify, what I'm reading is that citizens of those two countries are able to fly between them without customs, but that isn't necessarily true for citizens of other countries, such as myself.

For example, Aer Linugus' website says this specifically: "To travel between Ireland and Britain with photo identification other than a passport, you must be a citizen of either country" and "Citizens of countries other than Ireland and Britain must produce a valid passport and visa where applicable for travel between Ireland and Britain."

But I'm traveling by train and then flying once I'm in the UK, so that's why I want to be extra sure. Thank you!

Posted by
5982 posts
  1. Don't confuse customs and immigration, they are different things.
  2. Ireland and the UK have open borders between them, the so called CTA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Travel_Area That means there are no passport checks between the countries.
  3. Ireland and the UK are separate countries so you need to have a passport when you cross the border.
  4. Due to Brexit there is now a customs border between the countries so there are customs checks.
  5. Although Northern Ireland is in a strange halfway position when it comes to the customs border, but that is a different story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brexit_and_the_Irish_border
Posted by
5293 posts

The official UK government information is at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travelling-between-the-uk-and-ireland-isle-of-man-guernsey-or-jersey

In particular:

You will not pass through any immigration control when you enter the UK from Ireland across the land border, so you don’t need any documents to enter the UK on that route.

However, you may be asked by Border Force to show your passport, which should be valid for the whole of your stay, to enter Great Britain.

Posted by
7303 posts

For example, Aer Linugus' website says this specifically: "To travel between Ireland and Britain with photo identification other than a passport, you must be a citizen of either country" and "Citizens of countries other than Ireland and Britain must produce a valid passport and visa where applicable for travel between Ireland and Britain."

That is true, but outside the US, your Drivers license is not recognized as an official ID, only your Passport is recognized. You will find that when flying anyplace other than the US, you need your passport. It is much like in the US, you can board a plane with just a drivers license for domestic flights, but non-US citizens will need a passport.

The need for proper identification for a flight is different than needing a passport for immigration.

Posted by
14601 posts

When you enter Ireland, you also get permission to enter the UK. Not just UK and Irish subjects.

There are no immigration or customs checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland. You won't even know you crossed the border unless you see the sign welcoming you to Northern Ireland.

The flight between Belfast and Scotland is technically a domestic flight. Both are in the UK.

Passports haven't been stamped in years.

While there is technically customs now between Ireland and the UK it is mostly for commercial goods.

And remember, immigration is for people, customs is for your stuff. Americans seem to lug both into the term "customs" but they are two different things.

I travel on a USA passport and have traveled between Ireland and the UK numerous times.

Posted by
25 posts

Great, thanks everyone! Sounds like I don't need to worry about it. Much appreciated.

Posted by
14601 posts

Just for fun, where are you flying home from? What is the last airport you depart from in Europe?

Posted by
25 posts

Flying from San Diego (thru Boston) to Dublin. Returning home from Heathrow.

Posted by
14601 posts

I was wondering if you were flying home from Dublin which has a different procedure than other airports in Europe.

FYI--there is no exit immigration from the UK.