Let's say you are a visa national flying into a UK airport with a valid entry clearance. Between exiting the airplane and passing through passport control you have a medical emergency that requires you to be urgently transported to a hospital. What would then happen with your immigration status? Possible options I see:

  1. The immigration officers will search your luggage, find your passport and stamp it - could be tricky if you have your passport on you in the ambulance.

  2. They ask you to report back to the airport once you're healthy for processing.

  3. They send a policeman to watch your hospital ward 24/7 until you are able to go back to the airport.

  4. They give you some sort of emergency entry clearance and you don't have to deal with it in any way.

  • Loss of consciousness doesn't (on it's own) indicate any special severity, but I agree the @RedGrittyBrick's comment doesn't really address the interesting part. Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 11:03
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    Related: as a paramedic in the UK (but not in airport team) I have taken patients from police custody and from inside prisons to hospitals. There has always been a police or prison officer travelling in the ambulance in those circumstances. Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 11:54
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    No one gets a free pass, but they will decide what to do on scene. In that physical area, Border Force/CBP/etc. will be the first responders.
    – DTRT
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 18:52
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    While a medical emergency is not mentioned, I would it would be similar to being arrested as described in this video... You would be in the foreign country, but highly restricted (only hospital) and not actually having entered the country. youtube.com/watch?v=lkCeKc1GTMs Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 3:28
  • @user1068122 Once on a visit to A&E as a patient, there were two very bored looking police officers "guarding" someone who was on a trolley, and apparently unconscious! But I suppose some of his friends (or enemies?) might have come to take him away, if there was nobody to stop them...
    – alephzero
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


I worked in the A&E at Ashford hospital in Middlesex about 20 years ago. Ashford is a couple of miles from Heathrow, and all people requiring hospital assessment from Terminal 4 were brought to us.

I can recall only a couple of times where people were brought from arriving flights not having gone through immigration, but on both occasions they were accompanied by a police officer. They were admitted to the hospital, so I don't know what happened after they left the Emergency department, except the police officer went off to the ward with them.

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    One could likely guess that someone from Immigration / Customs would come visit the traveler at the hospital once they are stable and take care of formalities at that point in time.
    – user13044
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 14:20
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    I am glad they don't ask the dying person to fill forms.
    – user38149
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:46

This is about the US rather than the UK, but here is a relevant article about the treatment at Stanford Hospital of passengers traveling on Asiana Airlines flight 214, which crashed just before the runway at the San Francisco airport.

From the article:

And when they were healthy enough to leave the hospital, they couldn't simply be discharged because they had not yet cleared U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"They came straight from the runway," Weiss said. "They weren't officially in the United States yet." Adding to the complication was the fact that seven were minors unaccompanied by parents.

Sitting in open patient rooms and lounges, social workers, translators, Red Cross and customs officers, as well as a representative from Asiana Airlines, worked past midnight clearing patients for release.

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    One would imagine that "medical emergency in the air" and "medical emergency in the sterile corridor" are handled the same way by the immigration officials in any event, so I'd call that close enough to be relevant.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 5:04
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    This situation was a mass casualty incident with many patients taken to hospitals, which would of course likely lead to differences.
    – ajd
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 6:14

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