Passing through an airport while on your way to another country is called “transiting”. There are two types of transiting: “airside” and “landside”.
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.
Types of UK transit visa
The UK immigration rules recognise two types of ‘layovers’: airside – when you do not pass through UK immigration control for your connecting journey; and landside – when you do pass through UK border control, but return shortly (usually within 24 hours) to leave the UK.
To reflect these two types of transiting, there are two types of transit visa for the UK:
- the Visitor in Transit visa: for landside transiting, and
- the Direct Airside Transit visa (DATV): for airside transiting.
You may need to apply for a Visitor in Transit visa if you are travelling to the UK and you will be going through border control, but then subsequently leaving the UK within a period of 48 hours of your arrival. You may also need a Visitor in Transit visa if you will be frequently passing through the UK over a period of more than 6 months, although to stay in the UK at any one time for more than 48 hours you may need a Standard Visitor visa.
Alternatively, you may need to apply for a DATV if you will be changing flights from within the UK and will not be passing through UK border control.
Do you need a UK transit visa?
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
In addition, rules introduced by the British Government now require nationals of Russia and Georgia to apply for a transit visa if they plan to transit through the UK on or after 5 October 2023.
Transit visa exemptions
You will not need to have a transit visa to ‘pass through’ the UK for onward travel if you:
- Have valid status under the EU settlement scheme
- Have a valid UK visitor visa
- Have a valid Marriage Visitor visa
- Have a Home Office travel document
Do non-visa nationals need a UK transit visa?
Depending on your nationality, you might be able to transit the UK — both landside and airside — without applying for a visa in advance, provided you satisfy the transit rules.
If you are a non-visa national, you will not need a UK transit visa before you travel, although you must still apply for permission to enter on your arrival in the UK if you are transiting landside. As such, as a transit visitor, you must satisfy border officials that:
- you are genuinely in transit to another country outside the Common Travel Area, meaning the main purpose of your visit is to transit the UK (passing through immigration control) and that you are taking a reasonable transit route
- you will not access public funds or medical treatment, nor work or study in the UK
- you genuinely intend and are able to leave the UK within 48 hours after your arrival
- you are assured entry to your country of destination and any other countries that you will be transiting on your way there.
You should have in your possession sufficient paperwork to prove your onward journey to your destination country, such as a flight booking email, or a copy of either your boarding pass or ticket. Additionally, if you are not a national of your destination country, you may need to provide evidence that you are allowed to enter that country, such as a valid visa, a residence permit or green card, with details of where you will be staying. You may also be asked by border officials to explain why you are travelling to that particular country.
Under the new ETA scheme due to be rolled out to certain visa nationals, the ETA requirement will also be extended under the latest government proposals to all non-visa nationalities who are currently eligible to transit the UK visa-free by the end of 2024.
Do visa nationals need a UK transit visa?
As a visa national, you may need a Visitor in Transit visa to be able to transit the UK landside. However, under “Appendix Visitor: Visa National list” of the UK’s Immigration Rules, anyone seeking to come to the UK as a transit visitor may apply for permission to enter on arrival in the UK where they are a visa national and an exception applies.
Appendix Visitor: Visa National list sets out the nationals or citizens of the countries and territories who must apply for entry clearance prior to travel to the UK as a transit visitor. However, under the exceptions to this list, the following holders of specified travel documents will not be required to apply for a UK transit visa before they travel:
- nationals/citizens of the People’s Republic of China who hold a passport issued by either the Hong Kong or Macao Special Administrative Regions
- nationals/citizens of Taiwan with a passport issued by Taiwan (including the number of the identification card issued by the Taiwanese competent authority)
- those who hold a (Temporary) Service or Diplomatic passport issued by the Holy See
- nationals/citizens of Bahrain, Oman, Indonesia, Kuwait, Qatar, South Africa, Turkey, the UAE and Vietnam who hold a diplomatic or special passport issued by their country.
At the time of publishing, nationals of Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia can obtain an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) instead of a visa, provided the EVW is used strictly in accordance with the rules. However, these nationals will soon need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) instead of an EVW. The ETA is a new security system being introduced in the UK for screening of overseas nationals prior to travel. The ETA is due to come into force for Qatar nationals transiting the UK from 15 November 2023, and for nationals of Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE from 22 February 2024. The scheme will also be extended to Jordanian nationals on this date.
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.
Which nationalities need a Direct Airside Transit visa (DATV)?
With direct airside transiting, as you will not be deemed to have entered the UK, you will not need permission to enter the UK for this type of journey. However, as a visa national, you may still need a Direct Airside Transit visa (DATV) for an airside layover.
Not all visa nationals are required to apply for a DATV. There are also various exceptions under the rules for DATV nationals, based on the type of visa or residence permit held to enter certain destination countries. However, even if you possess a qualifying document, neither an e-visa or e-residence permit will be acceptable unless your airline is able to verify it with the issuing country. You should contact your airline for more information.
If you are unsure whether or not you need a Direct Airside Transit visa, and what documentation will mean you are exempt, you should use the online tool at GOV.UK. You will first need to select your nationality, followed by “Transit (on your way to somewhere else)” as your reason for coming to the UK. You will then be asked where you are travelling to and whether you will pass through UK border control. However, you may want to apply for a UK transit visa before you travel if you are still unsure if you are exempt.
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.
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.
How do you apply for a UK transit visa?
To apply for either a Visitor in Transit visa or a DATV, you will need to submit an online application at GOV.UK and pay the relevant fee of £64 or £35 respectively. As part of your application, you will need to prove your identity and nationality using your passport or other valid travel document. You may also need to submit documentation in support.
If you are not a national of the country you are travelling to, you will need to provide proof that you are allowed to enter that country, such as a residence permit or valid visa. Equally, if you are neither a resident or national of your destination country, you may need to explain why you are going there, with details of where will be staying. You may also be asked to prove that your onward journey has been booked or confirmed, such as a flight booking email, a copy of your ticket or boarding pass, or confirmation from a travel agent.
Having been granted a UK transit visa, you should bring with you any documentation that you submit in support of your visa application when you travel through the UK.
What is the Transit Without a Visa (TWOV) scheme?
In addition to the exceptions to the list of visa nationals as set out under Appendix Visitor: Visa National list, some visa nationals do not require a visa to transit the UK landside if they meet specific eligibility requirements and hold an exemption document. Under “Appendix Visitor: Transit Without Visa scheme”, as a visa national transiting the UK landside without a visa, you may be granted permission to enter the UK on arrival as a transit visitor, provided you meet the following requirements for admission under the TWOV scheme.
- you have arrived in the UK by air and will be departing by air
- you will be genuinely in transit on your way to another country, meaning the purpose of your visit is to transit the UK and that you are taking a reasonable transit route
- you will not access public funds or seek medical treatment, nor work or study in the UK
- you genuinely intend and are able to leave the UK before 23:59 hours on the day after the day when you arrived, instead of the usual 48 hours when transiting landside
- you have a confirmed flight departing from the UK before 23:59 hours on the day after the day when you arrived
- you are assured entry to your country of destination and any other countries you will be transiting through on your way there.
You must also either:
- be travelling (or on part of a reasonable journey) to or from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA and have a valid visa for that country — unless you are a national/citizen of Syria holding a visitor visa for entry to the USA
- be travelling (or on part of a reasonable journey) from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA and it is less than 6 months since you last entered that country with a valid visa — unless you are a national/citizen of Syria holding a visitor visa for entry to the USA
- hold a valid permanent residence permit issued by either Australia, New Zealand or Canada (where any Canadian permit was issued after 28 June 2002)
- hold a valid USA permanent resident card (I-551) issued on or after 21 April 1998
- hold a valid USA temporary immigrant visa (I-551), where a wet-ink stamp version will not be accepted
- hold an expired USA permanent resident card (I-551) issued on or after 21 April 1998, accompanied by a valid I-797 letter authorising extension of your permanent residency
- hold a valid standalone US immigration form 155A/155B that is attached to a sealed brown envelope
- hold a valid common format residence permit issued by an EEA state (under Council Regulation (EC) No.1030/2002) or Switzerland
- hold a valid uniform format category D visa for entry to a state in the EEA or Switzerland
- be travelling on to the Republic of Ireland (ROI) with a valid Irish biometric visa
- be travelling from the ROI and it is less than 3 months since you were last given permission by Irish authorities to land or be in Ireland with a valid Irish biometric visa.
Electronic versions of any documents listed above, such as e-visas or e-residence permits (including printed versions), will not be accepted by border officials for transiting through UK immigration control without a visa. All visas and residence permits must also be valid. In addition to physical evidence that you are allowed to enter your destination country, you should also have in your possession confirmation of your onward flight departing on either the day you arrive or before midnight on the day after you arrive.
You will not be permitted to transit the UK without a landside transit visa if a border force officer decides that you do not qualify under the Transit Without Visa Scheme.
How to apply for an ETA
To apply for an ETA, once applicable, you will need to apply online at GOV.UK or use the UK ETA app. The cost to apply for an ETA will be £10, and you should receive a decision by email within 3 working days, although the majority of decisions will be reached within 48 hours. Your electronic travel authorisation will be linked electronically to the passport that you apply with, where you will be able to use your ETA to make multiple visits to the UK over a 2-year period or until the passport you applied with expires, whichever is sooner.
If you are denied an ETA, where one is needed, you will need to apply for a UK transit visa.
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.
As with the transit visas, you apply for the visitor visa online and pay the application fee 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, depending on your nationality, 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.
Is transit visa required for connecting flights?
A transit visa may be required for connecting flights on your way to another country, dependent on your nationality, even if you will not need to go through UK border control. This is known as a Direct Airside Transit visa.
Last updated: 25 September 2023