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I've seen this question, but the situation there is (as suggested by the answers) different to mine because the question pertains to an EU national's girlfriend. The accepted answer states that married couples should join the EU queue, but somebody in the comments states:

The reason for an eu/non-eu married couple going both to the EU line is perhaps more about the fact that the non-eu spouse is traveling under the right of free movement rather than about a policy of not separating families.

I can't really see if the answer's assertion is correct, or if it applies to our situation.

I'm British and my wife is from Hong Kong. We've been living together in Japan since we got married, and we're travelling to the UK together for the first time. She doesn't have any kind of leave to remain in the UK, etc.

Is she able to join me in the EU immigration queue? If not, can I join her in the non-EU queue?

I'm not sure if this will make a difference, but as it's uncommon in Hong Kong for a woman to take her husband's surname when they get married, my wife has a different surname to me. If this is a problem, would a photocopy of our marriage certificate suffice?


Edit: I got a reply from Gatwick Airport's Twitter page wherein they stated

It is the preference of UK Border Force that family pass through together. As your wife doesn't share your surname, I can't be sure what issue that might present at border control and it may be advisable to choose the non-EU queue. You may wish to call UK Border Force on 0844 776 8537 or ask an agent at the airport for future travelling reference.

Update: I did call UK Border Force on the number provided, but it just goes to a higher level government group who don't really have answers. Essentially nobody I spoke to could say for sure either way.

In the end, we found that yes: we can go through the UK queue together.

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    You can join her in the non EU queue, I've done this myself many times in London with American/Canadian friends, there is no problem. (not posting as an answer as I'm not sure about her joining you in the EU queue) – Uciebila Apr 15 at 11:55
  • Anecdotally, me (UK) and my wife (Taiwan) have usually gone separately through our respective national queues. When entering at Taiwan Taoyuan I've sometimes had a funny look from the border agent for ticking the "visiting family" box, but my wife has been waiting for me behind whatever guard post I get sent to, so they just look behind them, see her and carry on. In theory, yes we could both stay in the non-nationality queue together though. – Michael Dodd Apr 15 at 12:11
  • @Michael I see. But when visiting the UK, are you allowed in either queue since you're together? I don't really want to not be there if my wife gets asked extra questions, etc. Anyway, I didn't feel that the question I linked (and that you've flagged mine as a duplicate as) answers that question, given phoog's comment under the accepted answer, and given that the question was related to a girlfriend rather than spouse. I also don't understand the "right of free movement" that Phoog's commented alluded to, since I thought that was only for EU nationals? – John Apr 15 at 12:13
  • @John I don't have a definitive answer, but there's no penalty for a "fast-tracked" national joining the slower queues. I wouldn't chance us going in the EU queue together, like I wouldn't chance going in the Taiwanese Nationals queue together when I'm in Taiwan. Personally I'm more towards the accepted answer in that duplicate, and like you I'm also a bit confused about Phoog's answer. – Michael Dodd Apr 15 at 12:20
  • Also, key line in the accepted answer: UK immigration queues are segregated by type of passport – Michael Dodd Apr 15 at 12:22
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You are always allowed to join your wife in the non-EU queue. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to whether you can both go through the EU queue instead.

I think the free movement thing is a red herring. Unless you are currently resident in an EU country other than the UK, your wife does not benefit from freedom of movement when traveling with you or reuniting with you in the UK (it's actually a bit more complicated than that, but that's the basics).

In actual fact, the question of whether a UK/non-EU couple can use the EU queue is an operational decision seemingly made by the UK border force officers at each port.

The basic requirement for your wife to be able to join the EU queue with you is that the border officer has the equipment required to admit non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, which will be the appropriate stamps and a fingerprint reader (obviously only needed if your wife is traveling on a biometric visa).

In some airports (from my experience, Heathrow), all desks are equipped to admit any passenger. Whereas other airports (from my experience, Stansted), only the other passport desks are equipped to admit all passengers. Having said this, when I've entered the UK with my wife, she's had a residence permit, so it's possible the policy at Heathrow is different in the case of visitors.

You could ask staff which queue you should take, but sometimes their advice isn't in accordance with what the UK border force staff want. Specifically in your case, I wouldn't be sure that the person answering questions on Twitter is correct in their assessment of what UK border force wants. I don't think that having different names will be much of a problem or particularly shocking to the border officer. It's extremely common. Having a copy of your marriage certificate would certainly deal with any disbelief.

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    Nobody that I spoke to really seemed sure of an answer. As it turned out, we were allowed to go through the UK queue without any issues. – John May 7 at 15:01
  • @John Glad to hear it. – MJeffryes May 7 at 15:27
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Last summer my husband (Canadian Passport) and I (UK passport) arrived at Heathrow from Canada and both cleared the EU queue with out any problems.

  • 1
    You could improve your answer by telling if you and your husband have the same surname, as this is specific in the question by the question starter. – Joren Vandamme May 7 at 12:50

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