"A meek endeavor to the triumph" by Sampath Jayarathna

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heathrow London, Paris France Transit Visa - Overnight Stopovers

***Update: I have a new post regarding transit visa here.

This is to help people who are regularly querying to know about stopovers in Heathrow London Airport. Last winter, precisely on January 10th, me and my wife spend almost 15hrs in London on our next flight to USA which is on next day morning around 10.30pm. I’ll try to give you some guidelines and advices as much as possible and that’s your responsibility to make your arrangements accordingly.

First of all, I’ll give you some idea on my visa and background issues. Me and my wife both graduate students at Texas State University San Marcos, and we both on F-1 student visa status. Our trip was from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Austin, Texas. Almost 2 stopovers throughout the flying, first in London Heathrow about 15hrs, and second in Chicago O’Hare 9hrs. This was our return flight from the winter break at Sri Lanka.

When we fly to Sri Lanka on December 13th 2007, we had a 9hr stopover at Charles de Galle Paris. Before our trip, I researched on the transit visa issues and couldn’t find precise information on Paris transits too. So, I’ll give you some idea on Paris transit visa too, in case someone needs to know on it. As I can remember we landed to the terminal 1 and depart from Terminal 4. Our flight f USA was from United Airlines and we thought we don’t wanna go out or do anything, and just stay at the airport for the next connecting flight. For the transit visa’s, there was no transit visa whatsoever required (at least for US F-1 Student visa holders) to stay 9-10hrs at the airport. But I don’t know there is change when you want to stay overnight at the airport for connecting flights. In case of the Heathrow London, you cannot stay overnight at the airport. I’ll come to this next. So, about CDG airport, its better to have at least 4-5hrs transit time if you travel to another destination. Don’t worry about spending that time if you are not in a hurry or in a business trip. In case our trip, we spend almost 9hrs in the next terminal (I guess it was terminal 4). Have some snacks ready, b’se we spent almost 10E (almost$20) for a yucky, ice cold sandwich. Everything really really expensive, so be prepared. Specially in terminals, for boarding there was a big line, so my advice is, if the boarding is started, try to clear that as soon as possible. If I’m correct the terminals are called satellites so don’t be confused with the names. So from my experience on this travel, there is no need of transit visa if you have a stopover at Paris, France (US valid Visa holders traveling from or Travel to USA).

Next information is for the Heathrow, London Airport. I’m not sure if you have a stopover at day time, then what is the situation, but definitely if you have a night stopover (in our case 15hrs) you needed to go through the immigration to get 24hr visa to go out from the Heathrow. So here’s the deal. Whenever you arrived at the airport, if you wish to go out or get 24hr visa, hurry up and don’t waste your time on going for restrooms or getting some break. Run as soon as possible to the immigration section, why? Because there’s a big line of people ahead of you if you wanna get your visa done. Especially if you have a limited time of stopover at London, then this is a must. This is crucial; we stayed about 1hrs on the line to get the visa done. There is no need of special paper work to get 24hr transit visa at Heathrow London.

But you need following documents mandatory for that.

1. Unexpired Valid US visa
2. Unexpired Passport
3. Immigration documents for USA, in our case (for F-1/F-2 student/dependent visa holders) I-20 issued by US College

4. Air tickets stating that you have prior arrangement to leave UK and your stay is just for transit via UK

The immigration officer didn’t ask anything other than this and it was just 1min interview to get the document stamped with 24hrs visa. Important thing is remember to get ready for your connecting flight and plan ahead. We stayed at Becontree, London and its about 2.5hrs from Heathrow. Believe me, next day we arrived just 1/2hr before the flight and needed to sprint through the airport to get the flight on time (Thanks to a helping hand from the United Airlines Officer at the check-in desk).

Let me know if someone needs more information on this. My email sampathid2003@yahoo.com


Dhanu said...

I have never gone through UK, but heard that their security checks are a nightmare.

sampath said...

Yep. I guess so. But we got some help from UnitedAirLins and they took as staright through all the lines......What i heard is u need at least 2hrs to clear the security traffic....funny. Withing 1/2hr we clear all the security at Heathrow.....

Buddhika said...

Just try to avaoid that bullshit airport....I mean Heathrow...The worst air port in the world........

sampath said...

Yep. Thats what I heard from lots of ppl. Problem is when we travel to Sri lanaka only possibility is through Paris or London, thats it?

Anonymous said...

thanks .. that was quite a useful piece of information...!!

Anonymous said...

you got it really good

i am flying to germany via paris where i'll be waiting for 15 hours for next flight do i need a transit visa.

second on my way back i'll be flying via U.K. heathrow , how can i get a transir visa.

please reply at eraliest

Ravi said...

How did you commute outside heathrow airport. Do they have short trip buses or taxis to London?

Do you know any websites to find more information on visiting London on Transit visa?

Anonymous said...


Actually I am an Indian student studying in US and I am going from Delhi to chicago via London heathrow with British airways.

My stopover time at heathrow is around 17 hours. Do I need to get a transit visa to go outside or if not am I eligible to stay at airport at night or do airline will provide me any accommodations?

What is approximate cost of transit visa and what about baggage, do we have to carry the check in baggage with ourselves?

I will really appreciate if you can please guide me through the process.


sampath said...

You need to ask accomodation from the airline, say u are traveling with British airways then they will give u accomodation. I dont tihnk others will do this. its 17hrs??? u definetly need to go out and stay in a hotel or something. U cant stay 17hrs at the airport terminal. One of my indian student traveled last winter on Sri Lankan ari lines and had abt 17hrs stopover at Sri lanka, so the sri lankan airline provides accomodation. Same thing for u. Ask for them tell them that u are a student and need accomodation. Thats the bottom line. good luck. There is no cost for transit visa. U don't need to carry ur baggages, check with ur airline for that.

Diksha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diksha said...

I have a friend who will be going to US but he has a connecting flight from heathrow. So he'll be staying at heathrow for about 6-7 hours. Is it possible for him to get a 24hrs visa to go out of heathrow for me to be able to meet him..because I don't think i'll be allowed to go inside the airport.

sona said...

I am an Indian student (F1) leaving US after my graduation and before the starting of my OPT. I wil b traveling wid british airways and have a 14hr transit at Heathrow London. Wil i b able to get a transit visa n get out of d airport?
I wil have my
Passport (indian)
F1 visa (that technically expires as i would have just graduated)
and ticket...

sampath said...

Sona hi,
If ur 14hr transit is overnight, u have to go out, b'se u cant stay overnight in a terminal. So they will definetly giv u da 24hr transit visa at the immigration counter of the Heathrow. If it is day time stopover, still u can go for it, only thing u need is the next day flight arrangement (valid ticket). Ur I-20 not expired though right?

Mr. Photographer said...

Hello Sampath

What if your transit is only for 6 hrs and druing day time... Like the question Diksha asked above. Will I be able to get a transit Visa.

Mr. Photographer

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the information!

nitin said...

Thank you Sampath. Ur article is very helpful.

sangeeta said...

This the best information I got after looking for rules for airside transit visa..thanks
Just a quick query?So I could still stand in the queue at Heathrow to get a 24 hour visa for my overnight journey? Is there any way I can apply it before hand??I have a valid UK visa but my 11 year old daughter does not have one though she has a valid US visa and we need to stay overnight at a hotel to catch a connecting flight..Thanks ..Can u reply back on drbones4u@yahoo.co.in

ANIL said...

hi sampath,

i am very happy that you have posted such a huge and valuable information, i will request everyone to put such kind of travelling information so that if anyone who is willing to travel through this route should take a prompt action if they are flying through such route. thanks ones again.

aboehab said...

i'll be travelling with British aiways from Tripoli to Toronto and suppose to stay for about 14 hrs in Heathrow .anybodey knows if they provide accomodation specially for families??????
thanks in advance

Serendipity said...

Hii .. Very urgent question.. I am travelling to India via Heathrow. I have a valid 5 year visa , but I will be on my grace(extension period) of I20 , when I travel. Is that a problem?
I wont be coming back to US on same visa.
I am only concerned on travelling for extension period of I20 ( which is ideally 2 months,after the last date on I20)

Sampath said...

If your F visa is valid then it doesnt really matter. They dont really check the I-20 but if they do, you can explain the situation.

Serendipity said...

thanks a lot!

Salim Reza said...

ETA processing fee and Short Visit Visa fee charged by the Sri Lanka Overseas Missions. Foreign currencies designated by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
sri lanka visa

sk4u said...

Hi - Thank you so much for your valuable perspective. I currently hold a F1 visa. I will be travelling from Delhi to Paris via London. As I will not be travelling to the US, I am not sure if I need a visa. Can you please advice. Thanks!

Sampath Jayarathna said...

The law is really gray in this type of cases. I bet the best option is to call the British Consulate in India and ask whether you need airport airside transit visa. You can read more information here in the section of "Transit without visa' concession". If you hold visa from Canada, USA, and going to one of these country, then you don't need transit visa. I guess its the same for European Economic Area visa or Schengen visa. Also you can check with your airline from India to UK. They are the one who's gonna enforce this rule. If you are already in UK airside, then there will not be anybody to check your visa unless you go through the immigration. I guess you get my point. If the airline refuses you, then theres no way you can go. Expect different rules, because these airline peoples are so inconsiderate and they don't really care. Specially British Airways is pretty restrict about this rule. Hope this helps.


raj tharun said...

Hello Sampath,

This is Raj Tharun, e-mailing you to request some precious information which is of high help to me.

My Situation:

I am a graduate student studying in USA (Teaxs) and a resident of India. I have been doing my Masters in USA from past 1 year. I am travelling back to India on a vacation this winter on Dec11th. My passport and Visa are on good and valid conditions. On my travel with Etihad airways I have a halt in Paris De Gaulle Airport for 11+ hours IE from 9:30AM- 8:00PM (apprx). My questions:

1) Do I need to carry any extra documents other than Visa, passport and I20 ?
2) Can I go out of airport for sight seeing during my halt of 11 Hours in paris? If yes, are there any formalities to complete ? If No, are there any formalities which makes me eligible for that.

On other note, I am really very interested to go out and enjoy the beautiful city of Paris.

Awaiting your reply. Thanks

Sampath Jayarathna said...

If you want to stay air-side during your stay at Charles De Gaulle, you don't need stopover visa. This is if you have a valid US student visa, pasport and the air ticket from paris.

But if you want to go out and do siteseeing, then you need to get temporary visa after paying some fee from the consulate here at Houston. If not, you can see whether they have 24 hr visa on arrival for France. I'm not exactly sure this if you are traveling towards India. Check with French consulate to make sure these are correct. Hope this helps.