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I'm an American citizen and I've overstayed my visa in the UK for years now. I want to book my flight back to the US ASAP on my own dime but I have a some questions about traveling home.

A lot of flights I've seen back to the US have a connecting flight in either The Netherlands or the Republic of Ireland (not in the UK).

Would it be an issue to travel through these countries considering I'll likely need to be issued a transit visa upon arrival and I've overstayed a visa in the UK?

Would it be best to find a flight that goes directly to the US, no stops in other countries?

And I also wanted to ask about the airport. What can I expect when I'm there?

1.) Is there anything specific I should bring with me (I'll have my valid US passport and a print out of my flight details)?

2.) Should I go directly to immigration and speak to them? Will I be detained and/or issued a fine/ban?

3.) Do they check passports when you leave (I'll likely need to take a flight out of Heathrow in London if I can't transit through other countries)? I don't believe there are formal exit controls in the UK but don't they do random checks?

4.) Can I just go and board my flight as normal?

I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing so as to allow this to go as smoothly as possible. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • You do not need a transit visa in Ireland or the Netherlands. You won't encounter border officials if you go through Amsterdam; I'm not sure about Ireland, but I don't think you would encounter Irish officers there either. You would most likely encounter US officers there because of preclearance, but your overstay in the UK is of no consequence to them. – phoog Jun 21 at 18:08
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Since the UK doesn't operate exit checks you can just buy a ticket and fly home. Airlines give passport information about their passengers to the authorities in advance, but the UK's main interest at this point will be to see you gone, so they have no interest in trying to stop you from leaving. Do not expect to be let back in anytime soon (no matter how you leave).

You will not get any particular benefits out of trying to contact UK authorities directly before you leave.

There are many airlines that operate direct flights from London to the US, so you should not have any particular problems finding one. However, if you find a bargain deal with a layover in Amsterdam or elsewhere in continental Europe, that shouldn't be a problem for you either.

American citizens do not need any visa to transit through the Netherlands or other Schengen countries. If you're only changing planes, you won't even come into contact with immigration authorities at all. The airline will want to check that you're allowed to transit without an airport transit visa, but a US passport will more than sufficient to satisfy that need, no matter what your travel history is.

I'm not sure about Ireland though -- the Common Travel Area works in non-intuitive ways sometimes, and I think you'd actually need to enter Ireland in order to change planes there, and need to pass through an Irish immigration check. If so, your history as an overstayer may create problems for you at that point. Personally I'd steer away from that risk, given the plethora of other possibilities.

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    I was in the middle of writing an answer with the same conclusion. I would avoid transiting Dublin. – MJeffryes Jun 21 at 17:00
  • Dublin is a US Pre-Clearance airport. But I can't tell if you go through Irish Immigration between arriving from the UK (essentially domestic) and the US facility. – Andrew Lazarus Jun 21 at 17:17
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    I think even if you don't go through Irish immigration, it is still risky. The UK Border Force might not see a flight to Dublin as a proper departure (since if admitted, you'd be in the CTA and could cross by land into Northern Ireland). – MJeffryes Jun 21 at 17:21
  • @MJeffryes what is the risk? The traveler will have left both the UK and the common travel area by the end of the trip. Do you think Irish border officials will screen the passenger in Ireland? UK officers certainly will not. Why would Irish officers stop her from proceeding to her flight? – phoog Jun 21 at 18:11
  • @phoog I'm not so sure but I believe from my last flight to Dublin there wasn't an option to simply transit within Dublin Airport, and similarly to the US one has to enter Ireland (i.e. pass Irish immigration) before being on their merry way. I would hence strongly advise OP against travelling via Dublin in his circumstances. – kiradotee Jun 22 at 1:59

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