Are you using the correct passport? Present the proper visa at the immigration counter or risk denied entry into the UK

  • Published
  • By Carolyn Glover
  • USAFE-UK Public Affairs
U.S. civilians, including dependents, on official orders to the United Kingdom should use their passport containing the UK Entry Clearance Visa for all travel, including non-official trips or vacations.

Attempting to re-enter the UK on a passport not containing the appropriate visa can result in unwanted delays at the immigration counter or denied entry into the country.

Most U.S. civilian employees, and civilian and military dependents, receive a free passport through the base passport agent at no cost before traveling to an overseas assignment. In most cases, these "no-fee" blue passports are then forwarded to the UK Consulate in New York for Entry Clearance Visas, which are glued into the passport.

"There is a common misconception the use of no-fee passports for personal travel is not authorized," said Col. Matthew Grant, U.S. Air Forces Europe-UK director of legal services. "By DoD regulation, use of the blue no-fee passport is authorized for non-official travel, like vacation travel, between overseas locations. You could be denied entry into a vacation destination, or the UK, if you do not present the border guard your passport with the UK Entry Clearance Visa."

Regulation-conscious travelers may rest assured using a blue no-fee passport while on vacation is perfectly acceptable, provided the foreign government accepts it.

According to DoD Directive 1000.21, "DoD Passport and Passport Agent Services,": "While outside the United States, no-fee passports may be used for incidental personal travel between foreign destinations providing the foreign government concerned accepts no-fee passports for personal travel. If the foreign government does not accept no-fee passports for personal travel, travelers must obtain regular-fee passports at their own expense."

Travelers should be aware of country entry requirements at their vacation destinations before departing the UK. Information on specific country requirements is available on the U.S. Embassy website or relevant Foreign Clearance Guides ( If a country does not accept the no-fee passport, individuals should present a personal tourist passport to border guards when requested. However, travelers should always carry the no-fee passport if it includes the UK Entry Clearance Visa.

"It is very important that American civilians traveling in and out of the UK confirm where their UK Entry Clearance Visa is located," said Grant. "I recommend travelers present only one passport to avoid appearing suspicious to border authorities looking for fake passports and illegal immigration activities. Presenting two blue passports to a border guard is almost certainly grounds for suspicion. Leave your personal passport in a carryon, unless it contains your UK Entry Clearance Visa." If issued a UK residency card, which is not glued into the passport, carry the passport associated with that card (the passport submitted when applying for the card).

Grant also warned entry procedures are not the same for the entire U.S. Force community. Military members, for example, should always enter the UK with their Common Access Card, permanent change of station orders and appropriate leave or TDY documents.

"Although the NATO SOFA and UK law dictate a military ID and official orders are all that is required for servicemembers to enter the country, military members should be prepared to present a passport, either personal or official, to border officers unfamiliar with rules," explained Grant.

U.S. civilian employees in possession of a red official passport may be required by destination countries to use a personal tourist passport for unofficial travel. In this case, these individuals should also carry the red official passport to present to the border officer upon return to the UK.

Regardless of individual situations, all servicemembers, civilians and family members should always have access to first sergeant, command post and unit phone numbers when traveling.

"Call if you are detained at the immigration counter for an excessive amount time," encouraged Grant. "Oftentimes, we can resolve these issues directly with UK Border Force officer or supervisor at the airport, before the traveler is detained and moved to interview rooms away from their family and traveling companions."

For more information regarding passport and visa entry requirements, contact the installation passport office or visit: