BA clarifies UK transit visas

Heathrow Airport Transit

British Airways has reported that there is still some confusion about transit visas for passengers travelling from South Africa via the UK and has issued a document from the UK Border Agency to clarify the situation.

The document states that South African passport holders transiting the UK en-route to the US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia may travel to the UK under the ‘Transit Without a Visa’ (TWOV) concession.

The TWOV concession applies when:

A flight to the US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia is confirmed, departs within 24 hours of the passenger entering the UK and the traveller is in possession of the correct documents to enter the next destination.

The concession allows passengers to connect to a flight either airside at the airport where they landed at or another airport, as long as the flight leaves within 24hours of entry to the UK.

However, passengers transiting to any of the 25 Schengen countries and who hold a category C Schengen visa must still obtain a UK visa.

More information on transit visas and other UK visas can be found at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi Russell! I am travelling to the US from Cape Town, but need to go visa London Heathrow. I have a valid US B1/B2 visa in my passport. Tha catch is that I’m flying on rebate tickets (hence, standby). They have been booked and paid for, but (and this is my question), I guess they would not be “confirmed” like they say they should be in the above concession. Is that correct?

    Also, if this is the case, I’m happy to get a transit visa. But again, what would happen if, by some small chance, I couldn’t get on a flight within the 24 hours which a transit visa allows? It doesn’t seem easy to apply for a full visa either in my case, as they want to know “where you’ll be staying/how long you plan on spending in the UK” etc, which won’t make much sense on an online application in my situation.

    Lastly, is a transit visa valid for the return journey as well? Or will I have to apply for one going there and another one for when I come back a month later via London?

    Thanks in advance for you help, and sorry for the long and complicated questions!

  2. Please clarify the following ;
    We fly to USA via London with a 2hr stop over ( no point in leaving the airport.

    HOWEVER on RETURN we have a 11hr layover at Heathro. Can the above work on return to SA . We have valid USA visas but will be returning to SA from USA ! ? Please clarfy

    • Hi Peter. Did you ever get a response to your question?

    • Hello Ashleigh, please let us know how we can assist with your travel plans?

  3. My son has a South Africa passport and is resident in Switzerland. He flies from Zurich to Ternminal 5 at Heathrow ande departd to South Africa within 2 hours. Does he require a transit visa?

    • He departs from Terminal 5 on his connecting flight.

  4. Hi,
    I am Irish citizen, my husband has a Chinese Passport and he is resident in Ireland with his Irish D visa. He also has a valid schengen visa C. Our family is planning go to Hong Kong with less than 12 hrs connection flight in UK LHR Airport. Will he require a transit visa for that? Thanks!

  5. I am flying BA from Delhi to Washington DC through London on the 26th. I have a G1 Visa for the US for 3 years. Do I need a transit visa for the UK?

  6. Hi.

    I am Indian National and gng to travel from DEL-BOS via LHR. Transit less than 7 hours should i require transit visa.

    Please reply on my email ID.

  7. STOP FLYING VIA BRITISH AIRWAYS. Seriously, other European airlines (like Lufthansa and KLM) don’t give us this crap. The Brits don’t want our air travel money? DON’T GIVE IT TO THEM!

  8. Question: I have a Ukranian woman, married to a U S guy and she was denied a visitors visa for a 3 day stay in London. Can she stay in airport if she has less than a 24 hour transit time..she arrives at 1030p and departs at 905a next day.

    Thanks.

  9. Hi I have only been advised now – 1 week before my departure on 11th July that I require a transit visa!
    Pls advise?

  10. My wife and I are travelling from Johannesburg to Heathrow and immediately on to Dublin. We both have South African passports. Do we need a UK visa?

  11. We are travelling to Canada via Heathrow…and returning the same way. There is still much confusion as to whether we need a visa for the UK or not. PLEASE clarify!

  12. I travel to Canada end of April 2014 via London – transit only – Do I need a UK Visa. Thanks

  13. Hi,

    I have the opposite situation. I am currently in the UK on a short term work visa which expires end of June however my company says it will be cancelled end of April as that is when my contract ends. I will be travelling to USA until end of June and then back to SA via London Heathrow. I will have to collect luggage and then check in on a different airline to fly to Johannesburg. I think I will need a transit visa as my work visa will no longer be valid after cancellation. It isn’t possible to apply for a transit while I am already in the UK, can I obtain one at Heathrow? Please help.

  14. We fly from Miami to CPT via UK and then return a month later via the same route. We hold 10 year B1/B2 visas.

    Can we make this journey to SA and back again to the US on our Visas?

    G

  15. Hello-
    I am travelling from USA to India to get my H1 visa stamped. I am travelling by British airways and am flying through Heathrow airport. My flight from US lands at about 7 am and my next flight to India leaves at 1 pm. will I need a transit visa?

    • Hello Divya, thank you for contacting us! Please let us know which Passport you are travelling on so to give you the correct information. Alternatively you can contact one of our agents on 0861 878 278/+2721-468-4300, Almene

  16. I hold a valid B1/B2 tourist visa for the US. I am flying to Barbados via London Heathrow and Miami. Do I still need a transit visa for the UK? My final destination is not the USA but I will need to pass through immigration in Miami?

    • Hi Karen! I just checked the wording again on the UK Immigration website and it says:

      You won’t need a visa if you:

      * are travelling to Canada, New Zealand or the USA and have a valid visa for that country

      Read more: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/south-africa/transit/no

      It doesn’t appear to say that your final destination is the USA any more – presumably this is because you’ll go through immigration in the USA in any case. It’s a bit of a difficult one as they’re not super clear any more, but technically the UK govt website doesn’t say that your final destination has to be the USA, it just seems to be that you have to be flying to and from there on your trip. So I don’t think you could come back directly from Barbados, you’d need to go back the way you came.

      I hope this helps!

  17. I have a South African passport and will be travelling from Dublin via Heathrow to the USA in December – I have a valid US Visa and will not be in Heathrow more than four hours – do I require a Transit Visa or any other type of consent.

  18. Hello-
    I am travelling from USA to India to get my H1 visa stamped. I am travelling by British airways and am flying through Heathrow airport. My flight from US lands at about 7 am and my next flight to India leaves at 10 am. will I need a transit visa?I have valid b1 visa of USA and expires on 2021.

    • Hi Ram, to my knowledge you won’t need a transit visa but I can’t say this for sure. We’re based in South Africa and deal only with South African travellers so I have no experience of Indian travellers on H1 visas I’m afraid. I would suggest checking the UK border agency’s site: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa

  19. Hi there
    My brother is on a South African passport but living in Barcelona. He is looking at booking a flight that goes: Barcelona-> Heathrow-> South Africa (one way). Would he need a UK visa for this transit?
    Thanks
    Lorna

    • Hi Lorna,

      Great to hear from you!

      If your brother holds a South African passport and is transiting in the UK when travelling from Barcelona onto South Africa, he will need to obtain a transit visa.

      For more information on transit visas and other UK visas this can be found at http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/

      All the best!

      Marcelle

    • Thanks Marcelle =D

  20. HI there
    i will be travelling from New York to South Africa VIA heathrow on BA ,i have a South African passport ,i am in transit for +- 12 hours and my bags will be checked straight through to South Africa from New York .i wont be leaving the tranit area
    do i need a visa for the uk
    regards
    gary

    • Hi Gary, as a permanent South African passport holder with a valid US visa who is in the UK for no other reason other than transit for less than 24 hours, who is travelling to his home country from the USA, you won’t need a visa to transit the UK.

  21. Hi there. I am a South African citizen living in Canada on a work permit. I am flying home to Cape Town for a holiday, would I need a UK transit visa to go through Heathrow for a short connecting flight?

    Has there been any recent change in policy?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Vrisha,

      Great to hear from you.

      As of 1 December 2014, South African nationals who hold a valid visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA will be able to use them to transit airside via the UK to anywhere in the world without obtaining a Direct Airside Transit Visa.

      Travellers who hold visas to these countries can transit the UK (airside) given that they provide an expanded list of exemption documents in place of a Direct Airside Transit Visa.

      The criteria are that the traveller:

      • must arrive and depart by air from the same UK airport and on the same day to another country outside the Common Travel Area1 (i.e. a travel zone that comprises the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland);

      • is properly documented for your onward destination;

      • holds a valid exemption document in accordance with one of the following:

      – a residence permit or visa that allows entry to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America, regardless of their route and final destination

      I would suggest you contact the British Consulate you side, to get the most up to date information. Let them know what visa you are holding and if a transit visa will be required when flying via the UK.

      Best of luck!

  22. My partner and I live in Thailand,next summer I intend to visit the UK,(I’m a British citizen), I then want my partner to fly from Thailand to Heathrow,and on to Washington. Will she need a UK visa in addition to a US visa? Thank you for your help

    • Hi Graham,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      If your girlfriend is a South African citizen wanting to visit the UK she will need a UK tourist visa. If she will just be in transit while flying onto the States, her US visa will cover her while in transit in the UK.

  23. I have a valid B1/B2 tourist visa for the US. I am flying to houston via London Heathrow and Do I still need a transit visa for the UK? My final destination is USA but I will need to pass through immigration uk 9 hours hold in my flight

    Reply

    • Hi Mustafa,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      South African nationals who hold a valid visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA will be able to use them to transit airside via the UK to anywhere in the world without obtaining a Direct Airside Transit Visa. You will also need to show proof of your onward journey to the USA.

      We do suggest you contact Teleperformance (the official visa handling agency for the UK) for the most up to date information as this could change at anytime.

      https://uk.tlscontact.com
      Tel: (021) 300 3758 or 00 44 1243 218 173. These numbers are a paid service so there is a charge of £1.37 per minute over and above your network charges. It is therefore necessary to have a valid credit/debit card ready to process payment.
      Office hours for the Application centers are: 0900-1700 Mon-Fri

  24. I need to travel from Cape Town to Dublin for a week for my son’s wedding. I will be going via Heathrow, and not leaving the airport while awaiting connecting flights.

    Presumably I must apply for the two transit visas (on outgoing and returning dates). Can the two visas be done within one application, and by submitting my passport only once through the agency in Cape town?

    Do I need the more expensive transit visas if having to go from one terminal to another at Heathrow?

    • Hi Trevor,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      This information should be used as a guide only. Please confirm directly with with the consulate, embassy or official visa handling agency direct.

      To my knowledge when applying for the UK transit visa for outbound and return flight it can be done in one application.

      You will need apply through the official visa handling agency Teleperformance.

      Please find details below:

      Customers will no longer be able to submit their UK visa application and biometrics through VFS. A company called TELEPERFORMANCE LTD has been awarded the contract. The website address is : https://uk.tlscontact.com
      Tel: (021) 300 3758 or 00 44 1243 218 173. These numbers are a paid service so there is a charge of £1.37 per minute over and above your network charges. It is therefore necessary to have a valid credit/debit card ready to process payment.
      Office hours for the Application centers are: 0900-1700 Mon-Fri

      Cape Town
      UK Visa Application Centre
      Upper Ground Floor
      Media Quarter Building
      Corner of De Smidt Street and Somerset Road
      De Waterkant

      REQUIREMENTS:
      • Valid passport (make sure there are 2 blank pages in the passport – these pages do not have to be consecutive)
      • Completed and signed visa application form
      • Supporting documents (It is recommended to submit originals along with photocopies of all supporting documents)
      • Proof of payment of the visa fee as per the purpose of travel
      • Two clear, passport sized (45mmX35mm), colour photographs.
      Applying for the visa is a simple 6 stage process:
      1. Make the application online through http://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk
      2. Make an appointment online to give your biometrics
      3. Submit your visa application and pay your visa application fee
      4. Visit the visa application centre to submit your application and biometrics
      5. Wait for a decision
      6. Collect your passport
      PLEASE NOTE: You should complete and submit the visa application form online and then schedule your online appointment before you visit the visa application centre. All applicants are required to come in person to submit their visa application and biometrics. We cannot accept the visa application if the applicant has not applied online, or if the applicant does not come into the visa application centre personally. Please note that the appointment dates are computer generated. The applicant may select the available date on the website as per his/her convenience.

      This service does not imply or guarantee in any way that applicants using the Priority Service will be successful in their visa application. All visa applicants must meet the requirements of the UK immigration rules.
      Applicants should be aware that they may experience extended processing times if any of the following factors apply:
      1. Have previously been refused a visa for the UK, and/or;
      2. Have previously been refused leave to enter the UK, and/or;
      3. Have previously been deported, removed, or otherwise required to leave the UK, and/or;
      4. Have overstayed a period of leave in the UK, and/or;
      5. Have been refused leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office, and/or;
      6. Have previously been refused a visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States of America or the Schengen countries.
      7. Have been convicted of a criminal offence in any country.
      UK Border Agency’s published global customer service target for processing visit visa applications is 15 working days. Applicants in South Africa generally receive a quicker service with most application processed in around 5 working days. The Priority Visa Service will offer an even faster service, though a specific turnaround time will not be guaranteed

  25. Hi, Can you confirm if indian nationals flying from India to Canada via the UK london heathrow airport require transit visa ? There will be a change of airplane at London so Im wondering if there will be need for transit visa. Another option is to take Air France flight to Paris to Canada which im certain doesn’t require transit visa.

    Can you pls comment thanks

    • Hi Harry,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise if a UK transit visa is required or not for Indian passport holders as we specialise in South African travellers.

      I do know for South African passport holders who hold a valid visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA will be able to use them to transit airside via the UK to anywhere in the world without obtaining a Direct Airside Transit Visa. However I am not sure if the same rules apply for other nationals. I suggest you contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. They will be able to give the most up to date information.

  26. hi ,
    can transit be applied on arrival or do the same as regular visa application in advance? I am proposing to use 18 hour layover in seeing London as much as possible.please guide me. layover period is like seeing movie blindfolded.

    • Hi Manish,

      I am not sure I quite understand your question. If you are a South African passport holders and transiting in the UK you will require a transit visa. Should you be leaving the airport passing immigration you will then require a visitors visa.

      However I so suggest you contact the Embassy direct let them know what passport you are traveling on and your routing and they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  27. Good day,

    I am a Zimbabwean flying to Canada (with a valid Canadian Visa) through London. My flight arrives at Heathrow (7am) and the connecting flight departs Gatwick (1pm) on the same day (6hrs in the UK). Please advise whether I need a transit visa since I have to travel between Heathrow and Gatwick.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you on the requirements for a Zimbabwean passport holder as we specialise in South African travellers

      I would suggest you contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. They will be able to give you the most up to date information if a visa / transit visa would be required or not.

  28. Hello,

    My family and I are travelling from Nigeria using British Airways to the US via London Heathrow and we all have valid B1/B2 visas for the US. We have about 4 hours in-between our connecting flights. Do we need transit visas?

    • Hi Timi,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      This depends on what passport a passenger is flying on.

      South African passport holders transiting the UK as part of their flight en-route to the USA may travel to the UK under the “Transit without a Visa” (TWOV) concession. This will allow passengers to connect to the next leg of their route without a visa provided that the passenger:
       Has a confirmed flight to the next destination (USA)
       Has the correct documents to enter their next destination (i.e. a valid visa to the US)
       Will be leaving the UK within 24 hours of arrival.

      Please note the above visa information is not guaranteed. Kindly confirm details with the relevant authorities as this could have changed at anytime

  29. I hold a South African passport. I plan to fly to Spain via London Heathrow, where I shall be in transit for approximately 3 hours. I’ll need to change terminals in London. I do have a valid Shengen visa and USA visa. Am I correct that I do not need a UK transit visa?

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid you are not correct. You will need a UK Transit visa. Only if you are flying to the USA and transiting via the UK will you not need a UK transit visa.

      However if you just hold a US visa and flying to (example a Schengen state) you will need to apply for a UK visa.

      You welcome to check with the UK Embassy as they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  30. As per the UK government website …

    “You should apply for a Direct Airside Transit visa if you arrive in the UK on a flight and leave again without passing through immigration control.

    Exemptions
    You don’t need a visa if you have one of the following:

    a visa for Canada, New Zealand, Australia or the USA (this can be used for travel to any country) ” ……

    Rather confusing !

  31. hi there, we are travelling to the US via London/Gatwick. We return via London onto Johannesburg but there is a 10 hour stop, is it possible for us to get a day visa to possibly visit one or two sights in London, your advise will be greatly appreciated. regards Sharon

    • Hi there Sharon,

      Thanks for getting in touch, Please be advised that we do not advise on Visas however you may contact Visa box Tel : 021 551 8829 http://www.visa-box.co.za, for further information. – Charlene

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