1st int'l flight..going thru immigration/customs

I have been looking for a straight answer for this & I just can't seem to find one. This is my very first trip from the US to the UK & we leave in 2 weeks. Am I correct that when we go to the plane in Altanta, we do not have to fill out any customs reports? But that when we land in the UK, we got through immigration(passport control) & then customs? Where can I find a list of what we can bring into the UK? When we are going back to the US, we go through passport control/customs then, right? Is there a list of what we can take out of the UK into the US? Do we go through customs again in the US on the return?
Thanks a lot for your help.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6825 posts

On the flight to the UK you will have to fill out a landing card and hand it to the Immigration officer the airport. After that you collect your checked baggage and pass through the Customs check. Heading back to the US, you pass through UK Immigration at the airport in the UK, when you board the plane you will be given a US landing card to fill out, after landing you pass through US Immigration, collect your bags, and pass through the Customs check. In the UK the Immigration officer collects your landing card...in the US the Immigration officer stamps the landing card, gives it back to you, and when you pass through Customs they collect it...so don't loose it;)

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

Thank you very much. I forgot to ask where I might find some guidelines as to what I can bring back into the US from the UK.

Posted by j.c.
Cary, NC, United States
839 posts

Linda, there's no customs procedure getting on the plane in the U.S. During the flight, the crew will distribute landing cards for you to fill out. You need to present that to the pass port control officer, along with your passport. Typically, at the London airports, you'll be asked a couple of questions duration of stay, where are you staying, etc. They'll send you on you way, to customs. At customs, there's a green line for people who have nothing to , and a red line for those who do. I don't mean a queue of people, I mean green and red lines painted on the floor. Unless you have something to and you almost certainly will not just keep walking along the green line out into main terminal area, and you're done. Coming home is pretty much the same.

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

Thanks, I understand the flow of things now. I see on the customs site what is prohibited but I thought there was a $$ amount related to purchases/gifts you could bring in before you have to pay a ??? tax? I'm finding it confusing since there are differing rules based on the different countries. This will get easier to understand, right??

Posted by Dellinda
Lubbock, TX, USA
100 posts

It's pretty straightforward...just follow the crowds. We just did our first trip through customs in Dallas...what a zoo. Which is why you don't want to have short time connections if you're making another flight.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3487 posts

Unless you are bringing large quantities of alcohol and/or cigarettes into the UK, you will be fine. Coming back through US customs, the only thing I've ever seen a problem with is food. Since mad-cow, they've been very strict about meat, and in general, any food products must be packaged. I once had all my luggage (long story, there was a lot) gone through bit by bit, because I had forgotten an apple in my carry on and the customs pooch sniffed it out. No problem, just a "bit" of a delay.

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

The brochure "Know before you go" is great!! I was all over that website and didn't find it so thanks a lot! I have a few concerns after reading the brochure: - both my husband and I take narcotics for chronic pain issues. I knew that we had to keep the meds in their original bottles but it says that regarding the narcotics, we can take only what we need, no more, no less. No matter where we go, be it for a few days in the US or longer, we always carry at least a week's extra. Is that going to cause a problem? I can't imagine that anyone would count pills but I may be wrong. The meds, of course, will go in our carryons. When we come back to the US, if there's a line that says "nothing to declare", I'm guessing that it doesn't mean that you have purchased some items but are under the $800 limit? In other words, even if we buy something for $20, we have to declare it?? Thanks again, all.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2369 posts

Linda; RE: Medicine. Yes, keep the medicine in the regular bottles, Having more than just the amount needed is fine, the intent is to limit those that might try and bring in the equivalent of a years worth. Your 30 day supply or so will be fine. RE: Declarations. I do not believe that there is a line on the US form that says "Nothing to Declare". On the front of the form there is an area to indicate the $ value of items purchased and on the back lines to list the items purchased. Give a summary of what you bought. Keep in mind that there is also a spot to indicate if you have food, if you do, indicate so, also, if you have alcohol, claim that as well. In all my years of travel, I found answering the questions honestly to be better than trying to get by with something, and nearly every trip I am over the allowable alcohol limits indicating I would need to pay duty, but have never had to pay. Customs is not out to get the normal traveller, however if you are trying to bring in high dollar jewelry and other items, Food, and the obvious prohibited items, then they get serious.

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

OK, I think I'm good to go in 13 days but who's counting!!! Thanks to all. Next trip will be easier, for sure!

Posted by Maureen
Atlanta
1357 posts

Also be aware that when you're arriving from an international flight in Atlanta airport, you have to go through security again after you go through customs. Because of the layout and since you have access to your packed bags, they have to screen those going to connecting flights, and since you have to go through whole airport to get out of it, that includes people who aren't connecting, too. So be careful of liquids that can be confiscated. If you have checked bags, put any liquids in there when you pick them up at customs. Then they'll check them through to the baggage claim.

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

Maureen, I was OK up to the 'put any liquids in your checked bags'. I guess I was assuming that when we come back from England, I'd have put any liquids into the zip lock bag they came in. And only 3oz or less bottles. Did I misunderstand something?

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

Maureen, I was OK up to the 'put any liquids in your checked bags'. I guess I was assuming that when we come back from England, I'd have put any liquids into the zip lock bag they came in. And only 3oz or less bottles. Did I misunderstand something?

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

Maureen means that if you, say, purchased alcohol at duty-free in the UK, you would have to put it in your checked bag in ATL, whether you are connecting or stopping there. Your regular 3-oz or less stuff will be in the baggie you left the UK with and can stay in your carryon.

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

Hi Linda first international flight is scary and exciting. But we all survived it before you. Mostly you follow the crowds of people you got off the plane with. Heathrow seems to have awfully long corridors. Once you deplane, take it slow, follow the crowds and read all direction signs. usually there are different arrows for people who are transferring within the secure zone. (Not you this time). You will then get to the immigration area- usually long lines - some for English (and EU) passports and usually longer lines for us foreignors. Just join the end of the line. Once through immigration you go to baggage claim (more waiting), and then exit either along the red arrows (something to declare) or green arrows (nothing to declare). Sometimes they stop a few people going through the green line for a spot check. Its happened to me. US immigration/customs when you get back is very similar. The only exception is that they may have sniffer dogs in the baggage claim area- looking for fruit, meat etc which they dont want you to bring in. I have come back through Miami, Atlanta, NY and DC and they all seem very similar

Posted by Brad
Charlotte, NC, USA
214 posts

When traveling to the UK, be sure to have the address of your hotel handy on the plane because you will need to fill it in on the landing card.

Posted by Arthur Haviland
Sun City Center, FL, USA
4 posts

Actually, just the name of the hotel and city is fine for the landing card in the UK. I was just there in June and the line for passport check at Heathrow took about 15 minutes, much better than my last trip through Gatwick in 2007 where I waited in line for an hour and a half. I made a day trip to Paris and had to complete another landing card on my return to London. The UK passport check was made in Paris on the Eurostar.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4376 posts

The 3 oz limit pertains only to carry-on luggage. You can put any size liquid you want in your checked luggage--within reason. I think a 5 gallon jug might get some notice.

Posted by thomas
chicago, il
89 posts

When you land at Heathrow or Gatwick, you will go through passport control and then as far as customs goes, unless you have stuff to declare, it's basically walk through and you're done most of the time.
I know you're also set for this round, but one thing i would let you know for your next trip--the two major airports in Ireland have preclearance for US customs which means checkin is VERY early, but you go through the whole process before you get on the plane. This way when you land, you land as if you were a domestic flight in the domestic terminals at major airports e.gl Chicago O'Hare or Atlanta.

Posted by Amos
Volcano, Hawaii
12 posts

One thing that almost caught me on my first flight from Heathrow was, there was an additional check point between the general "waiting area" (shops, food, lounges) and the gate area. When we went to go to the gate (closer to boarding time) they were short staffed and backed up. So you may want to check if there are any additional check points between the more desirable places to wait and the gate.

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

Once again, you are all awesome! We'll be leaving from Atlanta and landing in Manchester. I expect we'll have an easy enough time since we won't be bringing in or taking alcohol, cigarettes, or expensive anything!!!

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

I am SOOO excited! I've been dreaming of this trip for as long as I can remember. Thanks again, all! Cheers!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3487 posts

A couple of answers said if you buy liquids in the duty-free in London you can carry them on the flight to Atlanta, but then have to transfer them to your checked bags. They are assuming that you have another flight from Atlanta. I'm guessing that Atlanta is your home airport, so don't worry about that. If you want to bring liquor back from England, it is likely to be cheaper to buy it in a local shop and pack it well in your luggage than to buy it in duty-free and carry it on the plane. The US customs form says to list what you are bringing back. I am never over the limit, and I just write "gifts and souvenirs." I do check the food box, but don't itemize anything. I haven't had a problem yet.

Posted by susan
aberdeen, scotland & london, uk
237 posts

As a British person - hope you have a great time!
;0)

Posted by Linda
Acworth, GA, United States
31 posts

I won't be bringing any alcohol home to Atlanta, which is my home airport. Maybe some food but I know it has to be packaged well, right? And gifts and souvenirs. I hope to find items that are made in the places we'll visit. I will be stopping at the lavendar farm in the Cotswolds. I'm sure they regularly deal with visitors who want to take things out of the country. I wish I could think of great souvenirs, some small things, other than key rings and frig magnets. Ideas?

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
907 posts

Have a great trip...the worst part of the travel will be the rentry at Atlanta - not customs, but the TSA into the terminal. Long lines, and in my opinion some incompetent workers. Certainly not a "welcome to Atlanta" to international visitors or homefolk returning home.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

Amos, the problem with the extra checkpoint at Heathrow is that it doesn't really do you any good to know about it. They don't post the gates until shortly before boarding, so you can't really get much of a jump on it.

Posted by Maureen
Atlanta
1357 posts

Linda, I know you said you won't be bring alcohol home, but I just needed to respond to Chani's post. Due to the layout of the Atlanta airport, you do have to go through security after you go through customs even if you are not connecting anywhere. So just for public knowledge, if you buy liquor in duty free overseas, you've got to put it in your checked bags at customs in Atlanta or it might be confiscated at security.