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