I am flying Virgin Atlantic from the USA back home to South Africa. I have a 13-hour layover at Heathrow airport. Will I be able to pass through passport control to be able to go smoke in the designated areas, and then return through security before my flight back to South Africa?

  • 4
    On a related note, doesn't Heathrow have these smoking cabins, like many European airports?
    – DCTLib
    Dec 3, 2014 at 8:55
  • 4
    You could also bring nicotine gum or lozenges in case you can't smoke.
    – DBedrenko
    Dec 3, 2014 at 10:09
  • 9
    @DCTLib The English (and Welsh) law doesn't allow for them. Inside is inside.
    – gsnedders
    Dec 3, 2014 at 11:34
  • 2
    From heathrowairport.com/heathrow-airport-guide/… : Smoking is permitted in designated areas OUTSIDE the terminal building
    – algiogia
    Dec 3, 2014 at 13:11
  • 2
    If you are indeed allowed to pass immigration to get outside, do it right at the exit of your first plane. Do not choose the "transfer" lane, but go directly to immigration then out. Even as a citizen who can go freely into UK, in Heatrow I have been refused exit of the international area because my next plane was in less than 6 hours (as if it would take me 5 hours to get out and back in). You may be ok with 13 hours, but my way now is get out of the airport from the first plane, then only pass security back inside 1 hour before the next plane. Do not plan to do trips in and out easily.
    – Hoki
    Dec 3, 2014 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


From the new rules that activated yesterday, these parts were REMOVED from the rules...

you’re travelling from (or on part of a reasonable journey from) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA and have a valid visa for that country

you’re travelling from (or on part of a reasonable journey from) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA and it’s less than 6 months since you last entered that country with a valid entry visa

Visitor in Transit Strategy: You only need a valid visa for entry into the USA (Australia, etc). Being on the leg of a trip to/from the USA (Australia, etc) is now irrelevant. The US visa, or any other exemption document listed in the rules, such as a valid common format Category D visa for entry to an EEA state or Switzerland is sufficient to qualify.

Source: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/2702/pdfs/uksi_20142702_en.pdf

Temporary Admission Strategy: Failing all of that, it is also perfectly acceptable to ask an Immigration Officer for a Temporary Admission. There's paperwork, and they will take custody of your passport, but it's an avenue if all else fails. They do not have to give a TA if they don't want to, and they do not have to have a good reason for refusing. However it does NOT count as a refusal that must be reported in subsequent applications.

  • 2
    (+1) Interesting, so it's now more-or-less like in the Schengen area?
    – Relaxed
    Dec 3, 2014 at 7:45
  • 9
    That sounds like an awful lot of hassle to go through. Is sucking on a cancer stick really that important to you? Dec 3, 2014 at 8:13
  • 1
    @Relaxed Astute comment. I like that. Indeed, they are trying to regularise to lots of Schengen rules (but not all).
    – Gayot Fow
    Dec 3, 2014 at 8:17
  • 3
    @Shadur Probably not for a few hours, but the flight is 13 hours which is a really long time to go with out a cancer stick...
    – Lyrion
    Dec 3, 2014 at 8:30
  • 10
    @Shadur: A 13-hour layover sandwiched between two 8+ hour flights? If that's not a good reason to suck on a cancer stick, you're probably not a smoker.
    – Jonas
    Dec 3, 2014 at 14:55

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