The UK is a big hub for flights into Europe so you may be using one of the airports for your connecting flight. It’s understandable to ask ‘do I need a UK visa for a connecting flight’?
Depending on your nationally you might need a UK transit visa to pass through the UK. The easiest way to check if you need a visa is with this questionnaire. If you’re from the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, United States or already have a visa that allows you to enter then you won’t need a transit visa.
Disclaimer: If you are unsure about the UK Visa rules you should speak to the airline first as they will be able to advise if you need a transit visa. Alternatively speak to the UKVI, British consulate, closest application centre or with an immigration lawyer. There are always nuances to the immigration rules so always double check on the gov.uk website for the latest rules and updates.
What is a UK transit visa?
A transit visa is a short-term visa (also known as a ‘layover’), that allows you to pass through the UK on your way to your final destination. The UK has two types on visa’s that cover this;
- ‘airside’ is a transit visa that only allows travellers to stay inside an airport (i.e. same airport leaving on the same day).
- ‘landside’ is a transit visa that allows you to pass through UK border for a short amount of time (usually 24 hours)
Who needs a UK Transit Visa?
The transit visas are designed for those who need to transfer flight at the same airport, re-check their bags or catch a connecting flight at a different airport. London after all has five airports so you could arrive at Heathrow and have to transfer to Gatwick for your next flight.
Here are some of the reasons you might need a transit visa:
- Leaving the airport building for any reason
- Collection and re-checking in your luggage
- Catching a connecting flight departing from a different airport
- Your connecting flight departs on a different day to when you arrive
- There is no accommodation in the airport
- You are transiting through the UK to get to Ireland
On a side note: Flying with different airlines during your journey may require you to re-check in your luggage. This is normally highlighted in tools like Skyscanner or stated in the tickets you have purchased.
Exceptions for Transit Visa
Just like any UK visa there is nuances and a few exceptions to needing a visa airside or landside transit visa. For example:
- Travelling to or from Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA and have a valid visa for that country
- You have a residence type permit or visa issued by Australia, Canada, EEA (Category D visa), Irish Biometric visa, New Zealand or US
- If you have a valid Visitor Visa or residency permit for the UK
- There are other cases that qualify so double check
These exceptions still require you to prove that you are departing on the same day and have proof of an onward flight and all the relevant documents. This is known as “Transit Without Visa”.
How to apply for a UK Transit Visa?
The basis process is:
- Fill in the application form and answer in English
- Pay the visa fee online
- Print out your completed application form
- Book and attend your appointment at a visa application centre (This is where they will take your biometrics)
- Find a visa application centre
You will need to provide evidence for your application, such as:
- A valid passport
- A flight booking (email or copy of tickets)
- A valid visa for the country for which you are departing the UK
Fee for the Transit Visa
The current fees for transit visas are:
- Direct Airside Transit visas cost £34
- Visitor in Transit visas cost £62
The cost may vary slightly depending on which country you’re in.
How long is a UK Transit Visa valid for?
These types of UK visas are generally valid for 6 months and can allow multiple entries if your future trips meet the same criteria as the original transit trip. This means you can’t leave the airport if your airside visa or you can leave if you have a landside visa. You will also be allowed to do a reverse journey with the visa (i.e. the same visa can be used on your return trip).
What to Do in London If You Have A Short Transit Visa?
A land transit will allow you a short stopover (around 24-48 hours) to cram in as many sights and stop for some nice meals before boarding your next flight. I’ve got a ton of blog posts about my home (London)! Here are a few of my favourites to help you prepare for your trip.
- Never visited London? This helpful First Timers guide will tell you what you need to know and will have lots of handy tips.
- To make the most of your London visit you might want to consider booking ahead, here is a guide on what I recommend you book ahead.
- Want to pick something that reminds you of London or a lovely gift for family and friends, this guide will show you all the unique gift ideas you can buy your loved ones.
- Not sure if the transit visa will give enough time to see the city? I’ve put together a guide on how many days you need in London here.
Consider Switching to a Tourist Visa
If the Transit Visa doesn’t give you enough time to see the UK consider switching to a tourist visa. The processing for applying for the visa is similar to UK Transit visa.
If you have any questions about the UK Transit Visa, contact your nearest visa application centre or the British Consulate.
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