Travelling from South Africa via the United Kingdom and feeling a little confused about whether or not you need a transit visa? The frequent changes to visa and immigration policies have made travelling to and transiting through the UK a rather confusing affair even for the most seasoned travellers.
But this post will answer some of the frequently asked questions about the UK Transit Visa and hopefully shed some light on this widely misunderstood visa.
This information applies to South African passport holders.
Types of UK Transit Visas?
There are two types of transit visas for the United Kingdom:
A Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) is valid for 24 hours and does not allow you to pass through the UK Border Control (i.e. you must remain ‘airside’). This transit visa allows you to pass through the transit channels and requires that you depart from the same airport on the same day. The DATV is perfect if you are travelling to Europe and need to catch a connecting flight in the United Kingdom.
Please note you cannot transit airside in the UK to the Republic of Ireland or anywhere within the Common Travel Area (an open borders area that includes the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands).
If you are transiting the UK without a visa, you must:
- Arrive and depart by air
- Have a confirmed onward flight leaving on the same day and from the same airport
- Have the correct documentation for your onward destination (such as a visa for the country if required)
Find out more about the Direct Airside Transit Visa.
A Visitor in Transit Visa is valid for 48 hours and allows you to change terminals and pass through the UK Border Control. The Visitor in Transit visa is designed for travellers who need to re-check their luggage or catch a connecting flight at a different airport (e.g. If you land at Gatwick Airport and your onward flight departs from Heathrow Airport). You will only be allowed to stay in the UK for 48 hours.
Find out more about the Visitor in Transit Visa.
Please note that if you have applied for a Schengen visa, you have to have a Schengen CAT D visa to transit the UK. If you have a Schengen CAT C visa, you will not be able to transit the UK.
Who needs a UK Transit Visa?
You will need a transit visa if you have to pass through border control. You will pass through border control if:
- you leave the airport building for any reason
- you need to collect and re-check your luggage
- your connecting flight departs from a different airport
- your connecting flight departs on a different day to when you arrive
- there is nowhere for you to stay in the airport overnight
- you are transiting through the UK to get to Ireland
Note: You may need to re-check your luggage if you have connecting flights on different airlines.
If you want to leave the airport and visit friends or family, or just spend some time exploring the country, you can apply for a UK Visitor Visa.
Who does not need a UK Transit Visa?
You do not need a transit visa if you:
- have a valid visa for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the USA
- have a valid Visitor Visa or residency permit for the UK
- have a valid permanent residence permit for Australia, Canada (issued after 2002), or New Zealand (issued after 1998)
Note: If you have a valid visa for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the USA and your final destination is one of those countries, or you are simply transiting through them to get to another country, you will not need a transit visa. You will, however, need to be 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 much is a UK Transit Visa?
Direct Airside Transit visa – about R659 (£35)
Visitor in Transit visa – about R1,205 (£64)
How long is a UK Transit Visa valid for?
Transit visas for the UK are usually valid for 6 months and allow multiple entries as long as your future trips meet the same criteria as the original transit trip (e.g. you cannot leave the airport if you were granted a Direct Airside Transit 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).
How to apply for a UK Transit Visa?
The application process for a UK Transit Visa is the same as the UK Visitor Visa. It is done online through the GOV.UK website.
You will need to:
- 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
Find a visa application centre
For the UK Transit Visa application, you will need:
- A valid passport
- A flight booking (email or copy of tickets)
- A valid visa for the country for which you are departing the UK
Need assistance with your visa? Get a free visa quote from our expert partners at Visa Box!
We hope this cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the UK Transit Visa. Now, all that’s left to do is book your flights and get ready to live out your travel dreams!
If you are worried about your visa being rejected and losing your money on flights, you might be interested in our Visa Denied Service. It offers a full refund of airfare and taxes if your visa is denied.
If you have any questions about the UK Transit Visa, contact your nearest visa application centre or the British Consulate.
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Featured image credit: @itsjudear via Instagram
All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart is not affiliated with immigration authorities or their application centres and will not be liable for loss or inconvenience arising from the use of this volatile information.