UK Transit Visas – FAQ Fridays

This week on FAQ Friday we discuss the ins and outs of transiting via the UK on a South African passport.

Video Transcription

Welcome to another edition of FAQ Fridays with me, Nick Paul.

Today we are going to be talking about UK transit visas. It is a rather complicated topic that we get asked about fairly often.

We are going to be looking at:

  •  What a transit is
  • Under what circumstances you need a transit visa
  • Changing airports in London
  • Travel to Ireland

Defining Transit

Transit is when you travel via a certain city en route to your final destination, and change planes but don’t always leave the transit area of the airport. The transit area is area between the plane and the immigration desk.

 When will you need a transit visa for the UK?

The answer is almost always, especially when traveling via London.  There are a few exceptions (you need to check all of these conditions):

  • If your final destination is the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand
  • If you hold a valid visa for your final destination and are only in the UK for the purposes of transit (no longer than 24 hours)
  • If you hold a valid South Africa passport

Changing Airports

Virgin Atlantic is a key culprit with this. They often have flights from South Africa into Heathrow and onwards to destinations in the Caribbean and certain parts of the USA, which depart from Gatwick. This means you collect your own luggage in Heathrow and travel through to Gatwick airport. So technically you are leaving the transit area of the airport.

So, will you need a visa?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. Reason being: you are in the UK for the purpose of transit, you are allowed to be there for 24 hours and you are heading straight on to your final destination. You are not stopping to spend time with friends or family, you are literally landing in London, travelling across the city and flying again.  Therefore no transit visa is required, bearing in mind you need to meet all the requirements mentioned earlier.

Travel to Ireland

Ireland is a bit of a sticky one; it is the only visa free country for South Africans in Europe.  You can go there without a visa, but if you are traveling there via the UK/London you are going to need a transit visa to make that journey. Although Ireland is visa free, traveling via UK/London is not.

I would recommend if you are traveling to Ireland that you use flights via Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Istanbul, Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, as when transiting via those cities you do not require a visa.

If you want more information about applying for a UK visa please click here.

If you have any questions about the topic of transit visas, or anything else travel related please ask them in the comments below. We may make a video about your question.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more of these updates.

Our Readers Comments

  1. My brother recently travelled to USA via London and needed a visa. Their flight landed in Heathrow and departed Gatwick within the 24 hour limit and they still needed a visa. They flew British Airways. Not sure if the info published is correct

    • That’s odd, was he denied boarding to the flight and forced to purchase a visa before travelling? I know that some airline/travel agency staff are scared to tell people they can travel without a transit visa because the repercussions on this advice can be expensive if they’re wrong. But the office word on the UK’s border agency website is that you don’t need a transit visa under those circumstances, see: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/south-africa/transit/yes

    • it is decided by the immigration officer at the border, so yes, it’s not a guarantee, but you should get through without an issue.

  2. My daughter is travelling from holland(has dutch residency permit) via Heathrow to SA on SA passport with BA. She will be in Heathrow for 1.5 hrs & requires a transit visa.
    She had to apply for a trnasit visa although she will arrive & depart from terminal 5. BA does not infrom you of this until you have paid.Is this fair as she has to pay €65.?

    • Hi Rajen,

      Yes – this is normal.

      -Liam

  3. Sorry i am not to sure about your facts, as a South African i have my retention docs with me i was detained as i did not have a transit visa Coming from Portugal to Heathrow to Cape Town.

    • Hi Joan,

      In the video we state that you will need almost always need a visa when transiting via the Uk.

      The only cases when you don’t need a visa are:

      (you need to check all of these conditions)

      If your final destination is the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand
      If you hold a valid visa for your final destination and are only in the UK for the purposes of transit (no longer than 24 hours)
      If you hold a valid South Africa passport

      – Liam

  4. My wife and I are traveling to France via London, we arrive in London at 2pm and leave for France at 7am the following day. We’re also coming back via London, which makes our transit to-fro more than 24 hours. Do we need a full UK visa?

    • Hi Thabiso,

      The 24 hours refers to how long you’re in the country in one go, so you don’t count the journey there + the journey back or any other journeys you might have made to the UK in the past or might be making in the future. The 24 hours is the limit to how long you’re allowed to be in the UK in transit, EACH time, not in total for multiple journeys. For example 1 x journey going there and 1 x journey coming back are on 1 ticket but are two journeys, not one, so you would be allowed to be in transit for up to 24 hours on each journey. The type of transit visa required is dependent on whether or not you’re passing through immigration though. Use the link at the bottom of the original post to check which visa you need to apply for.

      -Liam

  5. please advice if I will need a transit visa if I am travelling from SA to UK via Zurich?

    many thanks

  6. iam from pakistan and i have plan to go Canada via abu dabi to heathrow airport and stay in air port for 03 hours for next flight to canada .All boarding card issued from my home country.
    then is i require any transit visa from uk or not

    • Hello Zahid. I am not an expert on how it works with Pakistani passports, but from what I can tell the rule should be the same.

      I suggest you check this against the UK Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa and your local embassy in Pakistan to ensure that you don’t encounter trouble at the airport.

  7. Hi, Liam. This is quite helpful.

    I hold a Philippine passport, but reside in Australia (i.e. I have a visa for temporary residency in Australia). I am travelling to Europe, and have 2 possible transits through LHR:
    1. Melbourne to Barcelona via LHR (transit is ~4 hours; ticket booked through a single airline)
    2. Berlin back to Melbourne via LHR (transit is ~5 hours; ticket booked through a single airline)

    I understand that the above routes may keep me on airside, but I feel exposed to the possibility of being intercepted, needing to re-check luggage, etc. To the extent that I’d like to avoid having to apply for a transit visa, I was thinking of the below strategy:
    1. Avoid LHR on the onward flight. (and fly via Dubai instead, for example)
    2. I thought the flight back to Melbourne–where I reside, hold a temporary resident visa for, and is my final destination)–shouldn’t be as big a risk (if in case I am intercepted, etc.).

    Any thoughts? Would be helpful to hear your advice. Many thanks!

  8. I am flying via London to USA , I have a valid USA visa. Do I need to apply for a UK visa as well.

    • Hi Strini,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      If you are a South African passport holder with a valid visa for the USA. a UK transit visa will not be required when flying via London.

      Below you will find a link which is really helpful.

      We do recommend that one confirms requirements with the consulate or embassy directly though.

      British Consulate in Pretoria: 012 421 7500

      Have a lovely trip!

  9. I am Indian Citizen currently in US. My H1B is expired, I have applied for extenstion and received my approved extension petition and I-94 until 2017. I will be travellng to India via London – Heathrow airport in Mar. Do I need a transit Visa (DATV)

    • Hi Sathia, Unfortunately I do not know the answer to this question. I would suggest you contact the UK Embassy in the USA for their guidance on this.

  10. Hello I have a question: application requires: What is the main address and contact details of where you will be staying whilst in the UK? do I have to fill it with the airport address? because I don`t have the purpose of contact with anyone in UK. I hope to make myself understan, I appreciate orientation, thank you!!

    • Hi Andreina,

      Thanks for reaching out! If you are not visiting family or friends, you will then need to provide the details of the hotel you will be staying at, while in the UK. You need to put the correct details of where exactly you will be staying. The Embassy do checks, and if they find out this is not correct this could count against one qualifying for their visa or not.

  11. Hello I have a question:on the application for transit visa join ship aircraft requires: “What is the main address and contact details of where you will be staying whilst in the UK?”, do I have to fill it with the airport address? because I don’t have the purpose of contact with anyone in UK, I will be on transit, don’t have any contact, I can’t leave it blank.

    I hope to make myself understan, I appreciate orientation, thank you!!

    • Hi Andreina,

      If you are applying for a UK Transit visa, they should not be requesting this information, “of where you will be staying while in the UK”.

      We recommend you contact the British Embassy, and they should be able to advise why they are requesting this, or if you might be completing the incorrect visa application form.

      Their contact details are:

      British Consulate in Cape Town
      Address: 15th Floor Southern Life Centre 8 Riebeeck Street , 8001 Cape Town
      Tel: 27 (0) 21 405 2400

      British Consulate in Pretoria
      Address: 255 Hill Street, Arcadia, 2 Pretoria
      Tel: 27 (0) 12 421 7500
      Fax: 27 (0) 12 421 7555

      Best of Luck!

  12. I have a flight on 19feb2015 from Dubai to cayman island through LHR, Dubai-LHR via British airways -cayman(GCM) Via British Airways flight 253
    Take-off DXB – LHR Heathrow terminal 5
    Depart 19 Feb 2015 15:20
    Arrive 19 Feb 2015 19:20

    layover in London 14hours 30mnt

    I booked this ticket connection flight and
    take off from LHR – Grand Cayman island
    Depart 20 Feb 2015 09:50
    Arrive 20 Feb 2015 17:30

    take-off LHR Friday 9.50am landing GCM Friday 5.30pm
    Depart 20 feb 3.55pm

    So my questions:
    – Do I need transit visa about this flight(I am Indonesia passport)?
    – Do you have idea about this terminal?which terminal both this flight will be?
    – Do I to go through security or UK immigration or claim and re-check my baggage?or my baggage will transfer to next flight
    -is it possible if I only stay within 14hours layover at terminal 5

    Appreciated if you can answer my question one by one thank you so much

    • Hi Randi,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I have done a search using your name and surname and not able to locate a booking. In order for us to advise accordingly we will need to have access to your booking (this can only be done if the booking was made through Travelstart)

      This way we can see which terminals you fly in and out of. Also we are not able to see if you have booked a through ticket or not. My best advise is to contact the airline directly or the agent who you booked through and they would be able to advise accordingly.

      With regards to a transit visa in the UK, we are a South African based company specializing in people traveling from South Africa abroad who are holding a South African passport. I would think an Indonesian passport holder would require a transit visa, however I strongly advise you contact the British Embassy or visa company to get the most up to date information.

      Best of Luck!

      You will

  13. Hi!! Please I want to book a flight with British airways going to st lucia. I want to know if I need a transit visa because most the flights do a stopover in london (heathrow airport).

    • Hi Eleorachi,

      Thanks for contacting us. I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you if a transit visa is required for Nigerian passports holders (we specialise in South African travellers) so you’ll need to check on the following website: https://uk.tlscontact.com/

      Or contact the British Consulate direct they should be able to give the most up to date information any visa query you might have.

  14. And I’m a Nigerian(a Nigerian passport holder)

  15. Hi
    I am a Canadian PR holding Pakistani Passport,Do I need UK Transit Visa for my flight from Istanbul to Toronto via London, even if I am not going out of the airport and stay is not more than 12 hours?

    • Hi Rabbani,

      Thanks for contacting us. I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you on the requirements for Pakistani passports (we specialise in South African travelers) so you’ll need to check with the official handling agency or the consulate direct.

  16. I am travelling from heathrow to the USA staying for 10 days the sailng to the carribean for 10 days will i need a transit visa

    • Hi Mary, if you’re travelling from the UK, as in not travelling via the UK (It’s not clear from your comment if you’re transiting) then you will need a full UK visa if you’re a South African passport holder. For the US you’ll need a full tourist visa also. If you’re simply travelling via the UK en-route to the US you won’t need a transit visa, but you will only be allowed to be in the UK for the purposes of transit for no longer than a day (you’ll need to arrive and depart on the same day).

  17. I am a citizen of Indonesia (hold Indonesian Passport), but living in Norway, have a residence permit of Norway as well. I’ll be traveling from Norway to Indonesia this December, will transit in Heathrow for only an hour. Do I need visa transit for this?

    • Hi Adiis, I can’t speak definitively for Indonesian passport holders as we deal with South African passport holders here. But I would say that if you have a Norwegian residency permit you probably won’t need a transit visa for Heathrow. Check the details here: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa

  18. My South African hubby was refused boarding at Joburg enroute to LHR in UK. His connecting flight was to Ireland within an hr and also in same terminal which meant he wouldnt had to leave terminal one at all. He was booked with SA airways. Off course we were almost 2000 pounds poorer within a couple of hrs because I had to book another flight via Munich to enable him to join me in Ireland. I was not aware that he needed a transit visa in UK, as he was going to be in same terminal for just one hr until his connecting flight. I tried to get compensation back and SAA refused. Were they right to have refused him on that flight from Joburg?

    • Hi Thelma, what an awful situation. Unfortunately they were correct to refuse him boarding in Johannesburg. Transit via the UK en-route to Ireland is not permitted without a valid transit visa for South Africans. The reason is that the UK and Ireland have what is known as a “common travel area” where for all intents and purposes, they function somewhat like a single state rather than 2 independent ones. This is to allow citizens of both countries quick and easy access to each other’s lands. This is most obvious when driving between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where there is no border control. Silly, I know, but with regards to UK airports, you need permission to be there if you’re going to Ireland. If you fly via Munich as you mentioned, since they’re not part of the common travel area, you won’t need a visa to transit there.

      I wish I had better news for you!

  19. I am lost and frustrated and don’t know where to go from here…. I have been around in circles on the UK visa website. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of transit visas via London and I have regrettably booked my flight to Ireland via Heathrow 🙁
    When I start my visa application it tells me that neither transit visas are applicable to travelers going to Ireland. So what do I need then? Do I change flights? This is so ridiculous?!

    • Hi Antoinette, I can understand your frustration! IS it telling you that you need a full visa for travel to Ireland? If it were me I would contact the UK border agency for guidance in this regard and get it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak: https://www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-outside-uk

  20. i am from Lesotho i travel to Ireland i living in Malaysia through Landon i need transit visa

    • Hi Qasim,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      Unfortunately I won’t be able to advise you on what the visa requirements are for a Lesotho passport holder as we specialise in South African travellers.

      Best you contact the official visa handling agency or the UK Embassy direct, they should be able to assist with your query.

  21. Hi

    I’ll be travelling to Amsterdam via Heathrow airport. I will have to transit from Heathrow terminal 2 to 4 (other side of runway) I will not be taking any luggage but carry on. Do I need at DATV (direct airside transit visa) or a Visitor in Transit visa?

    • Hi Beth,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you are a South African passport holder and in transit in the UK you will need to apply for a UK transit visa or they will not let you board the plane in South Africa.

      You will need to apply for the UK transit visa through the official visa handling agent Teleperformance.

  22. Hi Marcelle

    Thanks for your reply – unfortunately this does not answer my question. I know I need a visa – the question is which one? There are 2 transit visas for passengers who transit in the UK – a DATV (direct airside transit visa) and a Visitor in Transit visa. I need to know which one I will need.

    The DATV is for passengers who transit but do NOT leave the airport or go through border control. As Terminal 4 is separate from the rest of the airport I need to know if this is the correct visa type. Unfortunately, neither the visa handling agent nor SAA could provide me with this information. WHAT TO DO??

    • Hi Beth,

      I’m afraid we do not specialize in visa’s. Strange that Teleperformance who are the official visa handling agency was not able to assist in answering your question.

      You would suggest trying to contact the Embassy direct they should be able to assist, or contact Teleperformance again and hopefully you will get to speak to another agent who can assist with any queries you might have.

  23. I am a gambian travelling to the providenciales turks and caicos islands but it’s a visa free for gambian citizens and I need to transit through London Gatwick so the question is do I need a transit visa via London Gatwick to the providenciales turks and caicos islands.

    • Hi Fatou,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

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

      I would suggest contacting the UK Embassy they would be able to give the most up to date information and answer any questions you might have.

  24. Would I need a transit visa to fly through UK ( via LHR airport) ?
    I will be flying a BA flight.
    I am an Indian citizen currently residing in Netherlands ( have residence permit for Netherlands)
    My Dutch residence card for Netherlands is valid until June 2017
    My Indian passport is valid until Oct 2019
    My transit period at LHR airport is less than 12 hours
    Thank You,
    Meeta

    • Hi Meeta,

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you on the requirements for Indian passports as we specialize in South African travellers.

      To my knowledge passengers traveling on an Indian passport would require a transit visa when flying via the UK

      You welcome to contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency they will be able to give the most up to date information.

  25. Hi Marcelle , I’m using a Lesotho passport to go to Bahamas, through transit to UK, do I also need a transit visa for Uk?

    • Hi Mohamed,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you on the requirements for Lesotho passport holder wanting to travel to Bahamas as we specialise in South African travellers.

      I sugguest you contact the Embassy direct they will be able to give the most up to date information.

  26. Good day, I have a South African Passport with a valid US VISA. Landing at LHR and connecting with flight to Dublin at Gatwick, Do I need a transit Visa if I leave one Airport to another? Thank you

    • Hi Francois,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      To my knowledge you would require a UK visa, as the America visa only covers you while in transit in the UK if your onward journey is to the United States.

      “South African passport holders transiting the UK as part of their flight enroute to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, CANADA, NEW ZEALAND or AUSTRALIA 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, Canada, New Zealand or Australia)
       Has the correct documents to enter their next destination (i.e. a valid visa to the US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia)
       Will be leaving the UK within 24 hours of arrival.’

      I do suggest you contact the UK Embassy or official visa handling agency, they will be able to give you the most up to date information.

  27. Hello sir/ madam, this is Abunasar Siddiqui me and family wish to travel from Barbados home to India through London Gatwick Airport, the United Kingdom then I have another flight from Heathrow what kind transit visa do I need? please suggest me. Thanks

    • Hi there,

      thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you on the requirements for Indian passports as we specialise in South African travellers.

      For this you will need to contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information on what visa to apply for, documents required when applying and cost.

  28. Just to be sure. We will be travelling to Canada via Heathrow. Am I correct in saying that we do not need a visa as we will only be in the airport building . We have Canadian visas

    • Hi Ronel,

      The below visa information is not guaranteed. Kindly confirm details with the relevant authorities / Embassy or official visa handling agency direct.

      South African passport holders transiting the UK as part of their flight en-route to Canada 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 – Canada
       Has the correct documents to enter their next destination (i.e. a valid visa to the Canada)
       Will be leaving the UK within 24 hours of arrival.

  29. Hi my mother is travelling to India through London, she has Extended permit of visiting visa for Canada. can she travel through London Heathrow or is she requires transit visa. Please let me know . thanks

    • Hi Sekhar,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’m afraid we do not specialize in visa’s. You would need to contact the official visa handling agency or Embassy direct.

      They will be able to give you the most up to date information with regards to what visa is she is currently holding and if it will cover her or not while in transit in the UK.

  30. Hi there,
    I have a USA visa. I wonder if I need any type of UK Visa for traveling to USA via UK from IRAQ. I have Iraqi passport. I just do not want to buy ticket then will be cancelled for not having UK “Ex. transit visa”.

    Thanks for revert.

    • Hi Rozh,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

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

      I suggest you contact the Embassy or official visa handling agency direct. They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  31. Hi

    If the name is incorrect on the visa application online form and it has already been submitted, would it be a problem for the British 6 months visa or do we have to send it in for a refund and re apply for a visa?

    • Hi Tjaart,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      All information provided when applying for a visa needs to be correct.

      You will need to contact them direct to see what they advise as they are the ones who grant the visa’s

  32. Hello,
    My wife and kids are going to Fly from US to Bangladesh. She has Bangladeshi passport and the kids have US passport. Though she has US visa but that expired last month, however, she has i20 which is valid until 2017 (though visa expired but staying validly in US). She is thinking to fly with Kuwait Airways (JFK-LHR-DAC, with layover at heathrow without change plane). Since she will not be changing planes, do she need DATV (direct airtransit visa)?
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks

    • Hi Karim,

      Thanks for contacting us.

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to advise you on the requirements for an passengers holding a Bangladesh passport as we specialise in South African travellers. Please contact the Embassy direct or official visa handling agency. They will be able to answer your query and provide you with the most up to date information.

  33. Hi there,am a south African and am living in Ireland,so my question is do I need transit visa to transit at Heathrow airport to go to south Africa???

    • Hi there Gladys,

      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. -Stacey

Have something to say...