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Pre-Departure Travel Plans

Preparation is the key to a smooth transition to life at Ulster!

To enable us to provide you with the best possible support and make your transition to Ulster University and Northern Ireland easier, it is important that you provide us with your travel arrangements as early as possible.  Please ensure that you upload all of the necessary pre-travel information to CAS Shield.

Arriving in the UK

The “valid from” date on your visa is the date from which you can legally arrive in the UK (generally one month before your course starts if you are coming for six months or longer, or one week if you are studying for less than six months).

This is so that you can familiarise yourself with the University, your local surroundings, arrange permanent accommodation if you have not already done so and settle in before your academic journey begins.

Arriving on Campus

At least one month before semester begins the International Student Advisory Service (ISAS) will be in touch with you about your arrival in Northern Ireland.

Students will be sent information about our Week Zero Orientation programme and how to transit to campus from the Northern Ireland airports.

The University operates a meet and greet service from the two Belfast airports (Belfast City and Belfast International), it does not operate a meet and greet service at any of the other airports or ports of entry.

Flights and Airports

Although Northern Ireland is located on the island of Ireland, it is part of the United Kingdom and subject to UK immigration regulations.

The Republic of Ireland is a separate country for immigration purposes.

Unless you are a student visa holder we advise that you do not enter Northern Ireland through the Republic of Ireland as you will not be able to get your passport checked or stamped for the UK and so will not have permission to enter the UK.

You should enter Northern Ireland through a UK airport where your visa can be stamped at Immigration Control.

If you have already booked your travel through an airport or port of entry in the Republic of Ireland, please contact the International Student Advisory Service (ISAS) member for your campus and let them know of your plans. Getting to Belfast is easy if travelling via other cities in the UK.

Regular flights operate between London, and other UK regional airports, to the two Belfast airports and City of Derry airport.


Most students coming to Ulster University usually fly into London (Heathrow or Gatwick airports) and take connecting flights to Belfast.

Make sure you check out information about London Heathrow. It is a large international airport and can be daunting for new arrivals into the UK. You may want to take a look at the above link so that you have information about your journey through the airport.

You’ll also get information about each of Heathrow’s terminals, how to transfer to the correct terminal in order to make your Belfast connection and information on what to do at Border Control. London Gatwick is also a large international airport so it would be useful to check out the above link for information on arrivals, border control and making you connections to your Belfast flight.

Some students may choose to fly to Belfast from other UK airports, e.g., London Stanstead, London Luton, Manchester, Glasgow.

Flights from most UK airports to Belfast take about an hour and there are regular flights throughout the day depending on the airport and the airline.

The cost of flights from London to Belfast varies greatly and it is worth contacting the main airlines before making a booking.

Belfast Airports

Belfast has two airports: Belfast City (also known as George Best Airport) and Belfast International.

Belfast City Airport is a 10-minute drive from the city centre, while Belfast International Airport is approx. 32 kilometers north-west of Belfast city.

Both airports have convenient public transport links into Belfast from where you can get connections to Coleraine, Derry~Londonderry and Jordanstown.

City of Derry Airport

Some students who plan to study at our Derry~Londonderry campus may find it convenient to fly into City of Derry airport.  Flights from UK airports to City of Derry airport take approximately one hour.  City of Derry airport is approximately 8 miles from the centre of Derry~Londonderry, journey time is approximately 20 minutes by taxi, the airport is also served by public transport.  Please note: The ISAS team do not currently operate a meet and greet service at City of Derry airport.

Immigration Control

When you arrive at a UK airport you will need to pass through Immigration Control.

There will be a queue for EEA and British passport holders and a queue for holders of all other passports.

Please check to see if you are eligible to enter via an EGate. This is not available to all students but will make your entry into the country easier if you are.

Please ensure that you have the following documents available in your hand luggage, as you will need to produce these for the Immigration Officer:

  • VISA

You may also be asked for your invitation letter/letter of offer from Ulster and for evidence of financial support.

You could also be asked for medical evidence such as chest x-rays if these were recommended when you applied for entry clearance.

Under UK Home Office rules you may be interviewed upon arrival, so don’t be alarmed if you are. You may be asked about your immigration and education history, what you are going to study, your post study plans and financial circumstances.

The Immigration Officer will date stamp your passport to show the date you entered the UK, if you experience any difficulties at the airport regarding your visa you should contact a member of the International Student Advisory Service.


At any airport, after you pass through Immigration you should collect your luggage and proceed to the customs hall. If your luggage has been lost or delayed, don’t panic, speak to the staff at the airport information desk. If you have nothing to declare, then you should walk through the green lane. If you have goods to declare, then you should walk through the red lane.

As a student you are allowed to bring in items for your own personal use, such as your laptop or tablet without having to pay tax but you will have to take these with you when you leave the country again.

Regulations on bringing food into the country are very strict and there are many things that you are not allowed to bring in. For a full list of banned foodstuffs you should check out the information on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs web page.

You may also want to speak to the staff at your nearest British Consulate for further information on Customs Regulations.

If you arrive at your destination airport in Belfast, on a designated meet and greet day, you will be met by University staff and directed to public transport for your onward journey to your campus.

Don’t worry about finding us at the Belfast airports, both airports are small, you’ll see us in the arrivals hall.

If you are taking part in our Meet and Greet service and have any problems when you arrive at your Belfast airport then please go along to the airport information desk and ask to have the Ulster University staff paged.

Top Tips for Smooth Travel

  1. If you're from a non-European Economic Area (EEA) country, complete the landing card given to you during your flight before you arrive at border control.
  2. Have your passport ready along with other visa documents. Remove it from any cover, and remember to remove sunglasses and hats.
  3. Keep information about the course you’re studying in your hand luggage. This must be in paper copy (not an electronic copy on tablet or phone). This will include your university Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) or your Short Term Student Visa.
  4. Keep any recent bank statements and details of where you are staying in your hand luggage, UK Visa and Immigration officers may ask to see this information.
  5. Expect UK Visa and Immigration officers to ask simple questions about your stay in the UK when you arrive at passport control.
  6. Do not bring in any meat or dairy products from outside the European Union (EU). There are restrictions on traditional medicines, food products such as fish, eggs and honey, and some fruit, vegetables and plants (including bulbs, seeds, cut flowers and tree bark).
  7. There are also restriction on the amount of tobacco, alcohol and gifts you can bring to the UK. If you exceed your duty-free allowance and do not declare them, all of your items could be taken away from you.
  8. Never bring in counterfeit goods, illegal drugs, offensive weapons or indecent or obscene material. Some items are restricted and will require a licence or permit.
  9. If you are travelling from outside the EU and have brought with you cash, cheques or bank-drafts totaling more than 10,000 euros (or the equivalent in another currency) then you must declare it by completing a cash declaration form at the airport.
  10. Never give false or misleading information (including forged or counterfeit documents).