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A friend of mine plans on traveling from Ukraine to Bulgaria. Ryanair offers a flight option via STN with self-transfer. She has Ukrainian citizen. My friend will be traveling with hand luggage only thus is may seem that it is possible to stay in the transit zone. Also, on gov.uk it seems to say that in her case no transit visa is needed.

But I understand that because of the layout of the airport itself, it is possible that she might need to exit the transit zone and thus a visa may be required. I am very confused!

Thanks in advance!

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  • Could you confirm your friend's citizenship? – Chris H Oct 15 '20 at 14:51
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    This is not simple. There is no "transit zone" at Stanstead, so your friend will have to pass through UK immigration to connect there. Depending upon the friend's citizenship, a UK visa may be necessary, and the friend will be denied boarding without it. The friend must allow enough time to pass UK immigration and customs, and to allow for the possibility that the first flight might be delayed enough so the friend misses the second flight. Finally, covid-19 restrictions may prohibit the friend entering the UK at all, and/or may require quarantine thereafter. – DavidSupportsMonica Oct 15 '20 at 15:00
  • updated: Ukrainian citizenship – ilyamt Oct 15 '20 at 15:09
  • I'm pretty sure there are other questions (and relevant answers) discussing this in more detail but my search-mojo seems to be off these days... – jcaron Oct 15 '20 at 16:10
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    Also, remember that "self-transfer" means that the two tickets/bookings are 100% independent, and that if she misses the second flight because she's late she will have to buy and pay for a new ticket, even if it's because the first flight is delayed. Likewise if the one of the two flights is cancelled, the other flight won't become refundable. But I'm wondering, is it really that advantageous to fly from Ukraine to Bulgaria via STN? That seems like a looooong detour! – jcaron Oct 15 '20 at 16:13
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As to the visa part of the question:

This UK govt site is a self-check for UK visas. Entering your friend's info (citizen of Ukraine, coming to the UK on her way to somewhere else, and presuming the Stansted > Bulgaria flight departs from Stansted on the same calendar day as her arrival at Stansted and she will not leave the Stansted terminal) returns she does need a UK visa. (The question page about passing UK Border Control is misleading, as that page does not address the particular case of an airport like Stanstead without airside transit facilities, where every arriving passenger from a non-UK flight must pass through UK Border Control.)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) maintains a database of travel information, which is almost invariably checked by airlines before a boarding pass is issued. This is because if a passenger is refused at a transit point or destination, the airline must return the passenger to their departure point, and may be fined as well. The IATA Travel Center returns a finding that your friend will indeed need a visa unless she transits the UK at Heathrow or Gatwick (or somewhere else in the UK that isn't Stansted; I closed the window before noting it further).

When your friend goes to the airport in Ukraine to board her flight to Stansted, before allowing her to board the flight, Ryanair will check to make sure she can enter the UK. The IATA database says she cannot, and Ryanair will not permit her to board the flight to Stanstead.

Given this uncertainty and the serious problems that will occur if things go wrong, you and your friend should consider the comment of @jcaron — with which I agree — that another itinerary would be a lot easier, a lot shorter, and probably worth the increased cost.

The safest course of action is to either a) have your friend get a UK visa before she attempts to fly this itinerary, or b) choose another itinerary that avoids the issue.

If she does take this flight, when she approaches UK Immigration at Stansted, she should be prepared to show evidence of her next flight from the UK to Bulgaria.

This answer is only partial, as it does not address the Covid-19 issues raised by this international itinerary.

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  • I don't think the two are in conflict. Entering the friend's details I find they do need a visa (answering yes to the question "Will you pass through UK border control?" since this is mandatory for all international arrivals at Stansted). – MJeffryes Oct 15 '20 at 17:52
  • @MJeffryes Thanks. I looked again, and you're correct. With no airside transit area, arriving passengers from a non-UK airport must indeed go through UK immigration when arriving at Stanstead. The govt.uk page "WIll you pass through UK border control?" page is misleading, as its list of "you won't" cases don't include the no-transit-area-is-available situation. I'll amend the answer. – DavidSupportsMonica Oct 15 '20 at 18:06

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