UK Transit Visa Waiver – Denied

My wife and I were in transit in London yesterday. We had arrived on a flight from Los Angeles and were going to catch a flight to New Delhi. The UKBA website has some confusing information on a Transit Visa and a visa waiver.

Apparently, if you are flying to/from the USA/Canada/Australia/New Zealand, then you can get a transit visa waiver – at the discretion of the immigration officer. This means three things for us Indians:

  • If we are flying to a country not in the above list, from a country not in the above list and transiting in the UK, we need to apply for a Transit Visa before we travel. I.e. if we are flying, say from India to Argentina via London, we would need to get a transit visa before traveling. This applies even if we are NOT passing through immigration in the UK and NOT exiting the airport.
  • If we are flying to/from the above countries we can transit air-side (i.e. not exit the airport or go through immigration) without a transit visa. In my experience, flying from India to the USA and from the USA to India via London was pretty smooth WITHOUT a transit visa, as long as we stayed air-side.
  • Now comes the tricky part. If you are flying to/from the above countries via the UK, and want to GO THROUGH immigration (i.e. leave the airport), and don’t have a visitor visa, it is at the immigration officer’s discretion whether they will grant you a visa waiver or not.

We got caught up in the last point on our way from LA to Delhi. We had 7 hours to kill at Heathrow in transit, and thought we’d try our luck with the visa waiver. The immigration officer asked us detailed questions about our visa history and the history of our visits to Britain. Finally he told us 2 things:

  1. If we had a legitimate reason to enter the UK, like “collection & rechecking baggage” we could be given the visa waiver
  2. Because we had taken UK visas before, we know the visa law, hence we are knowingly in violation of the visa law by trying to enter without a visa.

Anyway, in the end, he didn’t let us enter. We had to stay airside. He didn’t give us any ‘entry denied’ stamp or anything similar – which was nice of him.

10 thoughts on “UK Transit Visa Waiver – Denied

  1. I’m a visa national holding a Canadian PR card. My experience was much more pleasant though. First time around I had a 20 hour stop, the officer was a little confused when I handed him my PR card instead of a UK visa, but allowed me in without any hassle. The second time was much more interesting. I only had a little over two hours on my way from Stockholm to Montreal via London Heathrow. I was pretty sure I would be denied but took my chances anyway. The officer asked me my reason for entering the UK and my answer was ”just to get some fresh air”. He then asked why I didn’t have a visa, told him that I didn’t need one according to my knowledge. He said it’s a concession and not a right and allowed me in without any trouble 🙂


    • Thanks for sharing Shuvojit. I think the Canadian PR worked in your favour. I was told the same line “it’s not a right” – and then denied entry. Their official reason was “you had a visa before, so you know that visas are required.”


  2. I hold a student visa F1 to study in the USA and I will be transiting through LHR London. I have 18hr layover at Heathrow, I will like to know if I will be needing a UK transit visa. Thanks y’all


    • (My experience is with an Indian passport – requirements differ for different countries). For Indian passports, you can stay at Heathrow airport without a UK visa if you have any valid USA visa AND you are headed to the USA.

      If you need to exit the airport – then yes, you will require a transit visa. However if you are being forced to stay overnight because of airline connections, the UKBA might consider letting you through immigration with a visa waiver. To be on the safe side though, get a visa before going, if you plan to exit the airport.


  3. Hi insertindia, I have a 6 hr 45 min layover at London Heathrow, on my travel from Dubai to Canada (British Air). The next flight is on the same day. I have a valid Canadian student permit. My Passport is Indian. I’ll have to pass through immigration to collect my baggage and check in on the next flight (Air Canada), since the baggage is not through. As you said, the waiver is not a right, what would happen if I reach there and they decide not to give me a waiver? Can I pay from a transit visa right there and enter?


    • Hi – most likely they will let you through for checking in. As far as I know you can’t get a transit visa on the spot. To be on the safe side you could get a transit visa before you go. Sorry I can’t you give a more definitive answer. Let us know on this blog what you decide to do and how it goes.


  4. I’m an indian citizen with a valid F1 visa (valid for another 10 months) and will be visiting India for 3 weeks following which I will return to the US. Do I need an airside visa traveling from the US to India? I last entered the US 2 years ago and there’s some confusion with the exemption clauses (specifically clauses 1 and 2) provided on the website ( ) and in the following two documents (which contradict the clauses online) that are handed to carriers ( and ). Thanks.


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