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As explained in the Heathrow Customs - “Arrivals from the EU” exit question, the UK is somewhat unusual in having 3 customs exits from the baggage hall. There's a Red one for something to declare, a Green one for nothing to declare, and a Blue one for Arrivals from the EU

On an upcoming trip, I'm flying into Europe from outside the EU, and have a fairly long layover in Amsterdam before continuing on to the UK. During this layover, I will probably leave my bags checked through, but I'll enter the Netherlands through immigration + customs and spend some time there. Later I'll return to the airport, go through the Schengen exit immigration (+security), and take my flight to the UK.

In this situation, I as a person will be arriving from another EU country, having cleared customs and immigration there with my hand luggage. However, my checked luggage will not have entered the EU yet.

When I arrive in Heathrow, I'll then have an odd mix. Myself and my hand luggage are an EU arrival, checked luggage is not.

What queue should I use at Heathrow customs in this situation?

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"If you checked your bag through, and did not pick it up in Amsterdam, then you did not go through customs with it already when you enter the UK. Only your hand luggage will have been cleared through customs if you leave the Airport in Amsterdam.

Thus, it makes sense to use the "nothing to declare" lane in the UK, as you are in a situation where you could have something to declare.

Here is a source - Question 5 covers this case and makes it explicit that the customs check will be at the final destination in the EU, except that it does not talk about leaving the Airport or the transfer area.

As far as the gates are concerned, there is nothing in the rules, and using the definition of "intra-EU flight" from the page, the green gates would actually be fine to use. Using them with a non-green luggage tag will probably raise suspicion, though.

  • Do you have a reference for it being all of the luggage, and not the person that matters? – Gagravarr Jan 2 '15 at 9:16
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    Nothing other than common sense - the traveller needs at least one opportunity to declare that they have nothing to declare, and one opportunity to get caught when not doing this truthfully. The suggested combination would give the traveler a "free try to sneak through". I don't imply that the OP wanted to do so. I only imply that the course of action described would be suitable for doing so, so it is likely not to be allowed. Also, when declaring a good, the customs officer is allowed to have a look - without the suitcase present for inspection in Amsterdam, this is rather difficult to do. – DCTLib Jan 2 '15 at 9:24
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    @Gagravarr Added a source for "it being all of the luggage, and not the person that matters". I undid the have-to-use-nothing-to-declare-gate answer, though. – DCTLib Jan 2 '15 at 10:02
  • Just the kind of official reference I was after, thanks! – Gagravarr Jan 2 '15 at 12:55
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Answers in the other question you linked say "Baggage tags from EU airports are marked with green stripes." So if your bags have green-striped tags on them, go through the blue exit. If not, use the green exit. Yes, the colors don't match--this is an aptitude test as well!

I suspect you would be allowed to use the blue lane, but your bags probably won't have the green tags so you'll use the green lane. This doesn't seem detrimental in any way unless you're trying to bring in something that would only be allowed from the EU...but nothing you've said indicates that would be the case. Easier to just do what your bag tags seem to indicate, rather than having a philosophical debate with the customs officers.

  • Bags won't have the green stripe, so the Green Lane would be the simple choice, but I'm interested in what the rules actually say! – Gagravarr Jan 2 '15 at 9:17

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