Help for British nationals overseas – guidance

Visits to Antarctica: How to apply for a Permit

This guide sets out who has to apply for a permit, how to do so and explains the other rules managing travel south.

Any person on a British expedition to Antarctica or taking a British vessel or aircraft into Antarctica will need to apply for a permit to the Polar Regions Department of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

A British expedition is one organised in the UK, or one where the last place of departure for Antarctica is the UK, a British overseas territory, or a Crown Dependency. ‘Expedition’ includes a single person and is a tour or journey of any purpose, including activities such as landing ashore, skiing, kayaking, small boat activities, climbing, diving or any related activity

You don’t need a permit for:

  • ships or aircraft travelling to an immediate destination outside Antarctica
  • fishing vessels, unless they are carrying out functions related to an expedition
  • expeditions organised in and authorised in writing by another contracting party (country) to the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty

It is also unlikely that you will need a permit if you are a passenger on an organised visit to Antarctica, as your tour operator would usually arrange this. However you should confirm this with them before travelling. Contact the Polar Regions Department if you are still unsure.

Applying for a Permit

You should submit applications for permits as far in advance as possible. This should be at least two months before the date of your departure if you have previously obtained a permit for summer activities, or at least four months for a new or unusual application.

Organisers will need to demonstrate that they are sufficiently prepared for a visit to Antarctica. We advise all applicants to discuss their plans informally with the Polar Regions Department before they begin their permit application, especially if your expedition involves specialist activities such as extreme sports, extended trips or multiple transport options.

Application forms and guidance

For a land or vessel based expeditions you can download the new permit application form and guidance below. For further information please contact the Polar Regions Department.

Expedition permit application form (MS Word Document, 510KB)

Expedition permit application guidance (MS Word Document, 178KB)

If you plan to undertake more specialist activities in Antarctic (such as wildlife monitoring, scientific research etc) it is likely you will require a separate permit. For further information please contact the Polar Regions Department.

Specialist Activities permit application form (MS Word Document, 173KB)

Specialist Activities permit guidance (MS Word Document, 172KB)

Section 10 application form (MS Word Document, 191KB)

Once the expedition is complete, you will need to fill in a Post Visit Report.

Post Visit Report for Specialist Activities (MS Word Document, 123KB)

We strongly encourage all applicants to fully read the supporting guidance before completing either application form.

How to contact the Polar Regions Department

Telephone: 020 7008 1639



Polar Regions Department
Old Admiralty Building
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Room 2/135

Publishing application details

Applicants should be aware that within 10 days from the Polar Regions Department confirming receipt of any permit applications, the FCO will openly publish information pertaining to the these applications on this website. This will include application type, applicant name, duration of visit, proposed itinerary and the contact details of the applicant.

Applications received for expeditions from the 2015/16 season

Permit applicant Vessel/Aircraft name Purpose and date of visit Brief itinerary
Robert Dougall McCallum VAVA II Sailing cruise 26 December 2015 - 17 January 2016 Antarctic Peninsula
Dion Poncet Hans Hansson Scientific research 8 December 2015 - 2 January 2016 Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Elephant Island, Weddell Sea, Danger Islands and Paulet Island