***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.
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).