If you are passing through a UK airport while on the way to another country, you may need a UK transit visa. Transit visas are required by some nationals who are passing through the UK en-route to another country within 24 or 48 hours.
The UK immigration rules recognise two types of ‘layovers’:
- Airside – when you do not pass through UK immigration control for your connecting journey
- Landside – when you do pass through UK border control, but return shortly (usually within 24 hours) to leave the UK
You will need a UK transit visa if you:
- Are in transit to another country and have sufficient funds and the intention to travel onwards
- Have evidence to prove you can enter that country
- Can show that the only reason for your visit to the UK is for transit purposes
Transit visa exemptions
The following individuals do not require a transit visa to ‘pass through’ the UK for onward travel:
- EEA or Swiss nationals
- Those with a valid UK visitor visa
- Those with a valid Marriage Visitor visa
- Those with an EEA family permit
- Those with a Home Office travel document
Types of UK transit visa
The type of transit visa you will need will depend on the nature of your visit to the UK. The options are:
- Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV)
- Visitor in Transit Visa
Direct Airside Transit visa
You should apply for a Direct Airside Transit Visa if you are catching an onward flight on the same day and from the same UK airport at which you arrived. Airside transit passengers do not pass through UK border control.
Direct Airside Transit visas last for up to 24 hours, meaning the onward flight must be within 24 hours of your arrival in the UK.
You cannot apply for this visa if you need to go through UK border control, for example to check in your luggage on to a connecting flight or to change airports. In this case, you would apply for a Visitor in Transit visa instead (see below).
Applying for a DATV
The DATV application typically costs £35, though this may vary depending on which country you are applying from.
You apply online for a Direct Airside Transit Visa, unless you are applying from North Korea which requires a printed form. You will then make an appointment at the UK embassy or a visa application centre in your country.
At the interview, you will need to provide your current passport or other valid travel identification and submit your biometric information.
You will also need evidence of your permission to travel to the next country, such as a valid visa or proof of permanent residence there. You should carry this documentation with you when you travel through the UK.
You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances, such as proof of your onward journey eg flight booking confirmation.
Visitor in transit visa
You should apply for a Visitor in Transit visa if you will be going through UK border control but leaving the UK within 48 hours. You will need to provide your current passport or other valid travel identification when you apply. As with the DATV, you will also be asked to evidence your permission to enter the next country, and evidence your onward travel arrangements to take you out of the UK. Your onward flight must be within 48 hours of your arrival in the UK.
Applying for a Visitor in Transit visa
The Visitor in Transit visa application is made online (unless applying from North Korea) and usually costs £64, though this may vary depending on which country you are applying from. Once you have completed the form, you will be invited to arrange and attend an interview. During the interview, you will need to provide evidence of your transit plans and permission to enter the country you are travelling to. You will also be required to submit your biometric information.
Long term visit visa
If you can prove you need to frequently pass through the UK in transit over a longer period, the long-term Standard Visitor visa may be a better solution.
The visitor visa allows you to stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit and your visa can last for 2, 5 or 10 years.
Applying for a visitor visa
As with the transit visas, you apply for the visitor visa online and pay the application fee (currently £95) and will the be required to attend a visa interview and submit your biometric information.
Through your application, you will need to evidence your intention to leave the UK at the end of your visits, that you are able to support yourself (and any dependants travelling with you) for the duration of your time in the UK, and that you can fund your travel costs. You should also give proof of your planned activity while on layover in the UK.
In addition, as a long term visitor visa applicant, you will also need to show that you will only ever need to come to the UK briefly to visit (or transit for more than 48 hours) and prove you plan to leave the UK at the end of each visit by for example, giving evidence of your employment, close family and property within your home country.
If you have a question about transiting through the UK, contact us to arrange a fixed-fee telephone consultation with one of our UK immigration specialists.
Transit visa FAQs
Do you need a transit visa for UK?
If you are passing through a UK airport while on the way to another country, you may need to apply for a transit visa to enable you to continue your onward journey.
Can I get a UK transit visa at the airport?
No, you will need to apply for the transit visa at the UK embassy or visa application centre in your country before you travel.
How do I apply for a UK transit visa?
You apply for the transit visa by completing the online form and paying the application fee. You will then need to attend an interview where you will provide supporting evidence of your transit plans, and submit your biometric information.