The United Kingdom has made changes recently to its transit visa policy, which is positive news for South African, Swaziland and Lesotho nationals. The direct airside transit visa fee was reduced to £30 in October this year, and its routine validity has been extended to two years.
From 1 December 2014 further changes come into effect and the list of exemption documents that can be used in place of a direct airside transit visa will be increased. For airside transit, holders of Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and United States of America visas will no longer be required to be en route to those countries in order to transit the UK visa free. South African, Swaziland and Lesotho nationals who hold a valid visa for either Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America will now be able to use them to transit airside via the UK to anywhere in the world without obtaining a direct airside transit visa to the UK.
From 1 December 2014, if you intend to transit the UK en route to another country, and will be arriving and leaving (by air) from the same UK airport, without passing through UK immigration controls, you must;
Fulfil all of the following criteria:
AND you hold a valid exemption document in accordance with one of the following criteria:
a residence permit or visa which allows entry to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America, regardless of your route and final destination
an EEA or Swiss category D visa or residence permit, regardless of your route and final destination
an Irish biometric visa, regardless of your route and final destination.
The term ‘transit’ refers to passengers who are passing through the UK en route to another country. Airside Transit refers to passengers catching an onward flight from the same airport at which they arrived without passing through UK immigration.
Landside Transit refers to passengers who arrive at one airport but are catching an onward flight from another UK airport, or who have to pass through UK immigration to collect and re-check baggage before their onward journey, and therefore need to enter the UK. Different rules apply to Landside Transit where en route restrictions do apply to the exemption document criteria. More information can be found at www.gov.uk/transit-visa.
You do not require a direct airside transit visa if you already hold a valid UK visa to enter the UK.
1 The Common Travel Area is a travel zone that comprises the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland.