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Two Cuban friends are currently visiting the UK, having travelled here via Frankfurt (Condor/Lufthansa flight, airside transit without visa). They both have two-year validity UK visitor visas and are both due to return home to Cuba in late September.

Germany withdrew transit without visa privileges for Cuban citizens with effect from 29 July. Both my friends were already in the UK at that point (one recently arrived, the other arrived mid-May) and, as far as we are aware, there was no advance warning of the change. The new rules exempt Cuban nationals who are holders of a visa issued by Aruba, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, Bulgaria, Canada, Curacao, Cyprus, Ireland (Rep.), Japan, Romania, St. Maarten or USA from needing a transit visa, but not holders of UK visas.

The options for flights back to Cuba from the UK that do not require a transit visa are limited to flights operated by one package holiday company, and hence flight only bookings are very difficult to get. Returning via Mexico is an option, but at relatively short notice high demand means flights from Mexico to Havana can also be very hard to get.

  • In such force majeure cases, do Schengen rules provide any leeway at all to apply for a transit visa from a country where the applicant is legally present but not resident?
  • If yes, how should they apply? Should they first seek advice from the local German Embassy / Consulate General in the UK?

Note: I am not complaining about Germany’s decision, nor am I interested in Brexit-blaming for this situation. It is what it is, I’m just looking for some advice.

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    There are routings via Istanbul but they are apparently more expensive than via Mexico.
    – jcaron
    Aug 4, 2023 at 21:33
  • @jcaron Thanks very much, I hadn’t found that routing.
    – Traveller
    Aug 4, 2023 at 21:40
  • There’s also quite a few islands in the Caribbean which can be entered by Cuban citizens without a visa, but it’s often difficult to get from those to Cuba.
    – jcaron
    Aug 4, 2023 at 22:01
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    Even if you have to pay the (unexpected) terrible €80 fee for the transit visa, that will probably be cheaper than any rerouting. Aug 5, 2023 at 5:14
  • BA flies six days a week from Gatwick to Port-of-Spain, Caribbean Airways flies twice a week from Port-of-Spain to Havana, and Trinidad & Tobago has visa-free entry for Cuban citizens. Might be worth looking into. Unfortunately I can't check the pricing, since I'm sitting in the US. Aug 5, 2023 at 16:48

2 Answers 2

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In such force majeure cases, do Schengen rules provide any leeway at all to apply for a transit visa from a country where the applicant is legally present but not resident?

There is indeed an exemption and it's pretty broad, no need to invoke force majeure. The only thing required is “sufficient justification” (article 6 of the Schengen Visa Code). This formulation means it's up to the consulate to decide what's sufficient but they have all the cover they need to be reasonable and accept to process any application they want to process.

If yes, how should they apply? Should they first seek advice from the local German Embassy / Consulate General in the UK?

It works just like any other Schengen visa application (which does mean your friends will need a bunch of documents that hopefully won't be too difficult to gather from the UK). For airport transit visa, you should apply to a consulate of the country where the transit airport is located.

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  • The embassy site, in Havana, states 3-5 days required for the application. So apply for the transit visa (needed in September) in the United Kingdom, togeather with proof that you arrived through Frankfurt (when no transit visa was required) should insure that the visa will be issued in a timely mannor. Flughafentransitvisum - Auswärtiges Amt Aug 5, 2023 at 5:01
  • @MarkJohnson Do you think that providing the inbound flight booking (Cuba to UK) would be accepted as proof? My friends didn’t keep their paper boarding passes unfortunately. Cuban SIMs don’t work outside Cuba so they are not able to use mobile boarding passes
    – Traveller
    Aug 5, 2023 at 7:22
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    @Traveller The main reason for the transit visa is for them to get home. The inbound flight booking (togeather with the UK entry stamp) will show why they didn't get one before leaving (when it wasn't required). Aug 5, 2023 at 7:34
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@Traveller, we have been successful, I’ll advise to keep emailing the German consulate, I suggest to email the German consulate in London. Mention the “article 6 of the Schengen Visa Code”, your friend needs to provide documents to justify the application, such as the UK entry stamp, return flights and passport.

Article 6

Consular territorial competence

  1. An application shall be examined and decided on by the consulate of the competent Member State in whose jurisdiction the applicant legally resides.
  2. A consulate of the competent Member State shall examine and decide on an application lodged by a third-country national legally present but not residing in its jurisdiction, if the applicant has provided justification for lodging the application at that consulate.

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