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A US citizen enroute to Almaty has a 17 hour layover in Heathrow requiring them to fly out of Stansted. The flight arrangements are necessarily complex owing to factors that are irrelevant here. Their air tickets are in order and they have a Kazakh visa.

Normally, the person could present their passport at immigration and request 'leave to enter' as a non-visa national who is visiting the UK. However, the person has significant issues which makes it really clear that they would not be able to qualify as a visitor and they would face certain removal if they tried.

So can they instead request a transit visa? These requirements seem to be less strict than a visitor and perhaps they could qualify under those rules. Would they have to apply beforehand via the British mission in New York? Or can they request a transit visa upon arrival? If so, which visa or document would they present in order to qualify?

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    Buying a different ticket which permits a short airside transit would seem the easier fix! But I'm guessing there's a reason why they've bought such a complicated set of tickets with a landside transit through a country they know they have issues entering... – Gagravarr Jul 14 '15 at 12:23
  • @Gagravarr, edited per your comment. – Gayot Fow Jul 14 '15 at 18:21
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    The UK has a notion of "non-airside transit," which makes me wonder if they'd need a visa (since "I'm transiting and leaving the airport" is a different category from "I'm visiting"). The UK "do you need a visa" checker says that US citizens don't need a visa to transit, without the caveat that some people may need them. – cpast Jul 14 '15 at 21:45
  • @cpast, nice. Also, some people may want one to avoid the hassle. – Gayot Fow Jul 14 '15 at 21:59
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    I would expect that the "significant issues" be very relevant to this question, since immigration issues with a normal visa would likely also result in issues when applying for a transit visa. – March Ho Jul 15 '15 at 8:36
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Normally, Americans do not require a visa of any sort to visit or transit the UK. However, some Americans are unable to qualify because of an unfavourable history. Others experience discomfort and do not believe they will be able to qualify because of their personal circumstances. Some have been visiting the UK too often and they do not want their transit recorded as a visit (...will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits...).

So yes, it is possible for an American to apply for leave to enter under the transit visa rules. In order to do this, they must convince the Immigration Officer that their intent is genuine and that they will not abscond and go underground during their transit. Doing this can be difficult however, if the Immigration Officer thinks that the person is attempting to evade controls, the person will be removed to their point of embarkation.

To avoid the inconvenience of a removal from port, an American (actually any non-visa national) can apply for entry clearance beforehand. In the case of transit, the person can take the following steps...

  1. Create an account at Visa4UK and generate a new application as a 'Visitor in Transit'
  2. In the final part of the form, make a brief explanation about why this type of application is being submitted
  3. At the end of the form, pay the fee and book an appointment for biometric enrolment (note: this needs to be done for each and every application)
  4. Print the form and take it to the biometric centre, enrol in biometrics
  5. Put the application along with all the evidence (including passport) into a large envelope
  6. Send the bundle to the British mission in New York...

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There are variants of this procedure that allow an application to be upgraded to a priority status. Priority upgrades are handled by UKVI's commercial partner and the instructions are currently at Priority Visa Service. Not every applicant can qualify for priority service.

There is another variant where the applicant can have permanent or sensitive evidential documents returned to them by courier. In order to do this, the applicant must acquire an approved shipping label. All applicants can qualify for this service.

There is another variant for steps 4, 5, & 6 for high net worth individuals, but it's out of scope there.

Most decisions are processed within two weeks. The applicant can opt to receive an email notification, but there are no facilities for an applicant to collect their passport at the consulate (there are exceptions for chauffeurs etc, but this is out of scope here).

There are no appeal rights for short-term applications. If an application is refused, a fresh application starting from square 1 must be made. However, the person does not need to create a new account at Visa4UK.

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All transit visa applications are now online, unless the applicant has the good fortune to be a resident of North Korea. https://www.gov.uk/transit-visa/visitor-in-transit-visa

Applications cannot be made in the UK or in the British Islands.

UK Embassies no longer handle visa paperwork themselves, it's all outsourced.

If this guy is really such a liability to UK immigration, it's not obvious he'd get a visa. There are many other ways to get to ALA: AMS, LED, KPB, IST, AUH and FRA are short connection points wholly airside. Up against that, I wouldn't do the Heathrow-Stansted shuffle even as a British citizen.

  • @GayotFow They might work there but you won't be able to submit your application to them directly: "Services not offered in New York but available elsewhere: Visa enquiries" gov.uk/government/world/organisations/… – Calchas Jul 14 '15 at 23:14
  • @GayotFow No, it's just the paperwork side of things, not the decision making (AFAIK). Every country has decided to do this lately. Some contractors somewhere are making a lot of money. – Calchas Jul 15 '15 at 15:17

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