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I understand that landside transit (entry into the UK) is possible if the passenger is going to or coming from the US provided he meets all the requirements.

My question is how likely it is to get a landside transit if the layover exceeds 12 hours?

Additional info:

The passenger has

  • previously lived in the UK for 5 years as a student and has always abided by his visa conditions.

  • decent travel history.

  • never been denied visa or entry to Britain or any other Western country.

  • is passport holder of Pakistan which is, unfortunately, one of the countries with high levels of visa noncompliance.

I am asking because I have heard reports that immigration officers do not give landside transit easily even if the passenger meets all requirements. Since granting of entry is at the sole discretion of the visa officer, young men travelling solo, especially, are refused as a rule of thumb.

This leads me to a supplementary question.

If landside transit is sought and denied, would that information be recorded into the system and available to the authorities when and if the person applies for a visa next time, one, two, four years later?? The passenger would not want to take the risk and apply for landside transit if this means what I've just transcribed.

And,

Is it possible to make an informal inquiry to the immigration official about the likelihood to being granted landside transit and only formally proceed with the application if the passenger gets an affirmative nod?

I apologise if this sounds confusing. Such as the world we live in, the passenger does not want to be in a situation where a refused entry or even a withdrawal of application (if applicable in this case) might be entered into the system as it would adversely affect chances of future visa applications, especially since it is not the end of the world if he would be required to spend the layover of 16/17 hours at LHR looking like a homeless Joe.

Any first or secondhand reports, and advice, would be highly appreciated.

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As stated on the UK immigration website:

You won’t be able to transit without a visa if a Border Force officer decides you don’t qualify under the immigration rules. You can apply for a transit visa before you travel if you’re unsure whether you qualify for transiting without a visa.

So if you want to be 100% sure you'll pass without issues, apply for an entry clearance. Otherwise we cannot predict the outcome of your particular trip.

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    Applying for entry clearance beforehand entails going through the whole rigmarole for the sake of spending a 16/17 hours layover in a cozy hotel room instead of on the airport floor, which isn't worth the effort. This is why I am asking for first and secondhand reports of recent cases of successful landside TWOV. Also, I'm hoping someone would explain what it means to not qualify under the immigration rules despite fulfilling all the requirements as listed in timatic. – Marbles Dec 2 '17 at 18:32
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    It is perfectly possible that a traveller will arrive at a point of entry meeting all the Timatic requirements but with the specific intention of going underground and breaching the immigration rules once he has achieved entry. It is the IO's job to assess the risk that you will do that, and that assessment will depend on what he asks and how you respond. It's your landing interview and the outcome of someone else's interview has no bearing on it. Knowing that someone else recently gained entry will have no effect on the likelihood of you doing the same. – user67901 Dec 3 '17 at 5:42
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The transit areas of UK airports close overnight, so if the connection is overnight, the passenger must enter the UK and as such is on much stronger ground.

They should present their passport at the page with the US visa, the boarding passes and the filled-out landing card.

If presenting these documents, and provided the connecting flight leaves no later than 23:59 the next day, you've fulfilled the requirements in terms of documentation.

Not qualifying under the immigration rules means either not having the necessary documents for the transit or not intending to actually transit. If the officer suspects the latter, i.e. that you'll abscond once in the UK, they could ask for additional evidence of your plans to leave the UK, such as ties to Pakistan.

However, from your description of the person, it is unlikely they'll arouse any major suspicion, particularly with a connection of less than 24 hours. If they're extremely worried, they could bring a hotel booking confirmation and a certified letter from their employer/school in Pakistan.

Most importantly, always answer any questions truthfully, and never have the mindset that certain questions are "private" or "intrusive". They ask something, you need to answer clearly, truthfully, and without hesitation or nervousness.

If you want "feedback" from the Border Force, you can call them at Heathrow terminal 3 (+44 20 8745 6941) or Heathrow terminal 5 (+44 20 8196 2500). You should, however, ask clear and concise questions to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

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