All About Visas To Pass Through The UK In Transit

On September 15, 2023 | In General | By A Y & J Solicitors Last Updated : January 09, 2024

As one of the world’s major transport hubs, many international travellers transit through the UK, typically through one of the major London airports. If you are planning to take an international flight in the near future that involves a transfer through a UK airport, it is important to check whether you need a UK Transit Visa before you arrive here. Whether you need a UK Transit Visa or not will depend on your country of origin. In this article, we will explain who needs a UK Transit Visa, whether going through border control or remaining airside and how to apply for a Transit Visa.

What is a UK Transit Visa?

UK Transit Visas are needed by some international travellers who are passing through the UK on their way to another country within 24 or 48 hours. Travellers who are transiting through a UK airport may either pass through border control into the UK or remain airside while waiting for their flight. There are 2 different types of Transit Visa:

  1. Direct Airside Transit visa
  2. Visitor in Transit visa

Alternatively, if you regularly pass through the UK to other destinations, it may be more convenient to apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa lasting 2, 5, or 10 years. With a Standard Visitor visa, you will be able to transit when you wish and also stay in the UK for up to 6 months each time.

Do I need a UK Transit Visa?

Not all travellers need a UK Transit Visa. For nationals of most countries transiting through the UK, because they are not actually entering the UK (i.e. through Border control), they do not need a Transit Visa.

You will need a Direct Airside Transit Visa if you are a national of any of the following countries:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Moldova, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Venezuela (if passport does not have a biometric chip), Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Timor-Leste,Turkey, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Uganda, Vanatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe

The rules state that you will not need a Transit Visa if you hold a valid EU Settlement Scheme family permit, Home Office travel document (e.g. as a refugee or stateless person), Standard Visitor visa, or a Marriage Visitor visa.

To check if you need a UK Transit Visa, we recommend using the online Home Office visa checking service.

UK Direct Airside Transit Visa

If you require a Transit Visa and you will be changing flights in the UK en route to another country, and you will not go through UK border control, you will need to apply for a Direct Airside Transit visa. Many travellers who only have a short time between connecting flights and do not need to check in their bags in the UK choose to remain airside.

Eligibility for a UK Direct Airside Transit Visa

To make a successful application for a UK Direct Airside Transit Visa, you will need to prove that you:

  • Are taking a “reasonable transit route” (i.e. there is a clear reason why you are travelling through the UK)
  • Genuinely intend to transit the UK airside
  • Intend to proceed to your country of final destination
  • Will be permitted into the country of final destination (and on the return journey if transiting through the UK) and
  • Can remain airside in transit

UK Visitor in Transit Visa

The UK Visitor in Transit Visa is for travellers who will be changing flights in the UK and plan to go through border control.

Eligibility for a UK Visitor in Transit Visa

You will be eligible for a UK Visitor in Transit visa if you are:

  • Going to change flights in the UK on your way to another country
  • Taking a “reasonable transit route” (i.e. there is a clear reason why you are travelling through the UK)
  • Going through UK border control – e.g. to check in your bags for your connecting flight
  • Leaving the UK within 48 hours of arrival, and
  • Not intending to work or study during your time in the UK

You will also need to prove that you:

  • Genuinely intend to transit the UK
  • Intend to proceed to your country of final destination
  • Will be permitted into the country of final destination (and on the return journey if transiting through the UK)

How to apply for a UK Transit Visa

You can apply for a UK Transit Visa online on the Home Office website. To apply for a UK Direct Airside Transit Visa or a UK Visitor in Transit Visa, you will need to:

  1. Complete and submit the online UK in Transit Visa application form
  2. Pay the application fee – £35 for a Direct Airside Transit visa or £64 for a Visitor in Transit Visa.
  3. Book an appointment at your nearest Visa Application Centre (VAC) to have your fingerprints scanned and photo taken
  4. Attend your VAC appointment
  5. Provide or upload any documents required to support your application – this may include evidence of permission to enter the country you are travelling to, e.g. residence permit, green card, or valid visa. You may also need to provide proof of your onward journey (e.g. a flight booking email, a ticket or boarding pass – this may be printed or on your phone, or confirmation from a travel agent).

Once you have completed the above steps, you can expect to receive a decision on your UK Transit visa within 3 weeks. If you need a faster decision, you may be able to pay an additional fee to use the priority processing service. If your application is granted by the Home Office, you will then be able to transit through the UK. It is important to bring your visa and documents with you when you transit through the UK.

A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of visa applications. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or contact us today. We’re here to help!

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