The Extra Mile
The final answer on UK transit visas for SA passport holders
If you're flying through the UK and have a Schengen visa, do you need a UK transit visa? Our travel expert has the answer
Q. I feel confusion still reigns in the matter of UK transit visas even if you hold a valid onward Schengen visa. Last year I was due to fly to Paris via Heathrow. I had a Schengen visa and was flying British Airways throughout so would remain in transit in the same terminal in Heathrow. I was denied boarding by BA staff at OR Tambo International and had to purchase a new ticket with Air France to depart that evening. - Hilton Walker
A. Travel editor Paul Ash checked with BA and Flight Centre - both said the airline was correct. If you are travelling to a Schengen-area state, you will need a transit visa.
For anyone planning to travel via the UK, here is a round-up of crucial information and next steps.
TWO TYPES OF TRANSIT VISA
According to gov.uk, there are two types of transit visa. Which one you should apply for depends on whether or not you will be going through UK border control when you arrive in the UK. If you're not sure, check with your airline.
If you’re NOT going through UK border control
Apply for a Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) if you’ll be changing flights in the UK and will not be going through UK border control. The cost of application is £35.
Your onward flight must be within 24 hours of your arrival in the UK. You must have a current passport or other valid travel identification document, and will have to provide evidence that you’re allowed to enter the country you’re travelling to, such as a:
- residence permit;
- green card;
- valid visa.
If you’re not a resident or national of the country you’re travelling to, you may need to explain why you’re going there. You may need to provide details of where you’re staying.
You must also provide evidence that your onward journey is booked or confirmed, such as:
- a flight booking email;
- printed tickets;
- confirmation from a travel agent.
If you ARE going through UK border control
Apply for a Visitor in Transit visa if you’ll be going through UK border control but leaving the UK within 48 hours. The cost of application is £64.
How to check: The website has a quiz you can do to check which visa you will need. Note the only exception for transit regarding the Schengen area: you will not need one if you have a Schengen Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) group tourism visa - this is available only to tour groups.
HOW TO APPLY
For both types of visa, when applying outside the UK, you must apply online. Use the UK government website to register, complete your application forms, pay the visa fee and book your appointment.
Then you'll have to go to a visa-application centre to have your fingerprints and photograph (known as "biometric information") taken.
In South Africa, this information is collected by TLScontact, which has branches in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
All of these centres in South Africa are listed as "free to use", meaning there is no additional fee - above the British government fee - for applying through these centres.
However, you can pay extra for a range of services, including help in scanning and uploading your documents (£23/R430), a "flexi-appointment" (where you can submit on a walk-in basis, before or after your booked appointment date, £89/R1,650); and getting a decision in 24 hours (£956/R17,750). The standard turnaround time is 15 working days. Find all the other options here.
• We can help with your destination dilemmas, visa puzzles and itinerary ideas. E-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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