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.
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.
Once the expedition is complete, you will need to fill in a Post Visit Report.
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
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 email@example.com||VAVA II||Sailing cruise 26 December 2015 - 17 January 2016||Antarctic Peninsula|
|Dion Poncet firstname.lastname@example.org||Hans Hansson||Scientific research 8 December 2015 - 2 January 2016||Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, Elephant Island, Weddell Sea, Danger Islands and Paulet Island|