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Note: This question is in relation to a slightly complicated scenario outlined here. You don't need to read that question to get a sense of this question.

My wife and I were traveling to India from United States. Our itinerary was as follows:

American Airlines Flight 54 From Chicago (6:00 PM) to Manchester (7:45 AM)
Emirates Airlines Flight 22 From Manchester (8:45 AM) to Dubai (7:45 PM)
Emirates Airlines Flight 524 From Dubai (10:00 PM) to India

I was on a F1 student visa. My wife's situation was the following:

  • My wife was on F1 visa which was set to expire by August 2013
  • She recently secured a job and subsequently obtained a H1B visa which was valid from October 2013.
  • She was carrying the employment letter, visa appointment confirmation letter (proving that she was going to India to obtain her H1B stamping) and the document that stated that her H1B was approved

The agent that we talked to at the Chicago airport for boarding tickets denied us boarding. The reason that the agent stated was that we din't have the proper travel documents -- specifically because my wife did not carry a valid US visa. We explained clearly that the H1B was approved and that we were going to India to get a new visa but he did not accept that explanation.

Even though this was supposed to be a transit flight and the gap between transit was exactly 1 hour, he said that he cannot allow us to board this flight. He kept telling us that there is a chance that we can still get through in UK but that he did not want to take the risk at any cost.

As we were in a hurry, after much discussion, he offered to book another itinerary for us through Doha that does not touch UK.

One of the replies to my original question suggested that I find out if the agent was right in switching our itinerary. However, I am unable to find any concrete evidence. Can someone help me?

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What date were you flying - before or after the original H1B view expired? –  Doc Jan 16 at 3:05
    
@Doc: Our travel date was November 30, 2013 but I'm sorry I don't understand your question. Did you mean expired F1? Her H1B was valid beginning from October 2013. –  Autapsen Jan 16 at 3:06
    
Sorry, meant original F1. –  Doc Jan 16 at 3:13
    
@Doc: Thank you for the clarification. Then our travel date was after. F-1 visa expired August 2013. H1B was set to begin October 2013. –  Autapsen Jan 16 at 3:15
    
Prior to this trip, when was the last time that your wife entered the US using her F1 visa? Specifically, was it before or after May 30, 2013? –  Doc Jan 16 at 3:29

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You can find a document that describes the requirements for transiting the UK on the website of the UK Home Office.

In general, Indian citizens DO require a visa to transit the UK, however there are a number of exceptions. The two that are potentially relevant to you are :

(b) a valid visa for entry to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America and a valid airline ticket for travel via the United Kingdom as part of a journey from the country in respect of which the visa is held to another country or territory;

(c) a valid airline ticket for travel via the United Kingdom as part of a journey from Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America to another country or territory, provided that the transit passenger does not seek to transit the United Kingdom on a date more than six months from the date on which he last entered Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America with a valid visa for entry to that country;

If you meet either of these conditions, then a visa is not required.

Now, the issue becomes whether your wife has a valid US visa, and unfortunately the simple fact is that she DOES NOT. Although she might have been approved for a H1B visa, until she has the visa stamp in her passport, she does not have the visa.

As she does not have a valid US visa, exception (b) above clearly does not apply.

Exception (c) is a little less clear. It could potentially be read that a valid visa is not required at this point in time, as long as she had one previously, AND entered the US on that visa no more than 6 months ago. However it is possible that I am reading that incorrectly.

That said, you have confirmed that she entered the US more than 6 months ago, so exception (c) is also not valid in this case.

As your wife does not qualify for either exception, she does NOT qualify for Transit Without Visa (TWOV) through the UK, and thus would require a visa to do so.

So yes, the airline was correct to deny your wife boarding. They have a legal requirement to refuse to transport her, and if they had done so they would have likely faced a fine from the UK government for doing so. Obtaining any required visa(s) is the responsibility of the passenger not the airline, and thus they carry no responsibility here.

For what it's worth, if you had traveled on your original flights you likely wouldn't have made your connection anyway. AA54 arrived 90 minutes late on that day, so with only a 60 minute connection you probably would have missed the connecting flight (the EK flight left a little late too, but probably not late enough for you to have made the connection).

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Curious if we would have had "The Terminal" situation if they did. Since she can't get in or through UK or get back into the US. –  Karlson Jan 16 at 3:41
    
So the real question is do you need a transit visa to change between Terminal 3 and 1 in Manchester -- I guess you might do. –  SpaceDog Jan 16 at 3:43
    
+1 Thank you so much for digging this and preparing this detailed response. I really appreciate your time in this matter. –  Autapsen Jan 16 at 3:43
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@SpaceDog Indian citizens always need either a visa or to qualify for TWOV to fly via the UK, regardless of terminal changes or anything else. –  Doc Jan 16 at 3:44
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@Doc, wow -- yes I see that now. I did not know that. I guess all arriving passengers must go through border control then. I wonder if that's unique to the UK. It's also possible the agent knew the flight was delayed and knew you wouldn't make the connection for those reasons. Well researched answer. –  SpaceDog Jan 16 at 3:50

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