Connecting flights, do you need a transit visa?

Often when taking a long haul flight, you may be required to make a connecting flight to reach your final destination. This can be due to the logistics involved, or very often it can be more cost effective to take an indirect route. In these cases, you are classed as a transiting passenger within that country. It's important to consider whether you will need a visa to transit through a country however, even if you don't leave the airport. Does this apply to UK citizens in any popular travel destinations?

What We’ll Cover

  • Visa requirements for transiting through the USA

  • Stopping off in India

  • Transit visas for China

These are the most popular destinations for UK citizens to transit, which require some sort of visa or permit. Although this is accurate at the time of publishing, you should always check requirements with either your airline or the Embassy of the country in which you will be transiting before you depart.

USA

A UK Citizen can apply for an ESTA. You need to apply for this before you depart and is processed online in most cases. You will receive a digital ESTA, which you must print out to present when you reach the USA. There is a specific class of ESTA, called a C-Class, which is available to those who are only transiting. This allows you to omit any contact and accommodation information for the USA.

These are the most popular destinations for UK citizens to transit, which require some sort of visa or permit. Although this is accurate at the time of publishing, you should always check requirements with either your airline or the Embassy of the country in which you will be transiting before you depart.

India

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With stronger economic and travel connections opening between the UK and India, along with the long anticipated flights direct from Manchester to Mumbai being introduced this month, it’s likely that the amount of UK citizens passing through the country will sharply increase.

This is one of the destinations however which will require a transit visa for UK citizens. This is generally dependant on your circumstances, the airport you land at and the length of layover.

If your connecting flight is scheduled to leave within 24 hours of your landing in India, you may not require this visa. It all depends on your luggage and whether you will personally need to collect it and check it in again with a new airline. On occasion, if you are using the same airline for both flights, they will transfer your luggage for you if you have bought a single ticket from your location to your final destination. This, however, is not always the case. It’s important to check this with the airline when you book the flight and whether your flights land and depart in the same terminal.

If you have bought single flights from your location to India, and then onward to your destination, the likelihood is you will need to pass through immigration and check-in again. This will require a transit visa, as to pass through immigration you are then entering India and must have clearance to do so, even for a short time.

You may wish to take advantage of a layover if you have a long wait for your connecting flight, and do some sightseeing. You can use your transit visa, also called a Temporary Landing Permit, to enter India for up to 3 days.

Please note, there are no longer services for a Visa On Arrival in India, as this was discontinued in 2014 with the introduction of the eVisa services. It’s therefore important to check your personal requirements well in advance.

China

As a UK citizen, you can take advantage of the new Visa Waiver Program which allows you to transit most major airports in mainland China for up to 72 hours (some airports offer up to 144 hours, so check at the desk) without any pre-approved visa. You must be able to provide proof of your onward ticket to a third party country which departs within the time frame designated by your permit. For example, you can’t fly to China and return to your original departure country with a transit visa. Your onward ticket will be checked carefully.

You can explore China on your transit visa but you can not leave the region of arrival or take your connecting flight from another region. For example, a transit visa cannot be used to land in Shanghai and then take a train to explore or take a connecting flight from Guangzhou.

It’s important to have print outs of all of your flights and itinerary to present at the visa waiver desk. This enables the staff at the airport to efficiently check your information and issue your permit stamp.

To find out more about Chinese visas, read our in-depth blog post here.

If you still need assistance, you can use our live chat system, give us a call today on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, message us on WhatsApp on +44 (0) 7561 031947, go to our site at www.vitalconsular.com.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

If you have a long-haul flight, it’s not always a consideration when it comes to requiring a visa for a country you’re simply changing flights. If you don’t check the requirements for each step of your journey, however, even if you’re not leaving the airport, you could get caught short. If you need further assistance, get in touch with our visa specialists who can help you with your visa needs.

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Melanie Clarke
Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.
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