My question is whether airlines check visas electronically at the check in.

Say a person wants to fly from Moscow, Russia to London, UK to claim an asylum. Since he doesn't have a visa to the UK, he forges a UK visa and sticks it on his passport. Let's say visa quality is 1=1 with original.

So when he tries to check in with the airlines for the London bound flight, we know that the airlines will check the visa visually. But do they check it electronically, or with UK border agency before the flight to confirm its authenticity?

I heard of something called "passenger manifest." Does it have anything to do with visa checks?

Edit, pasted in the details given as an answer:

  • to the guy who is worried regarding criminal offence of forging a fake document, if asylum seeker can get to his destination, he/she is not prosecuted for forging a travel document considering they would not be able to gain genuine ones in their country where their life is threatened. 1951 UN Refugee Convention: Section 51.
  • I asked the same question on Quora (also a forum) where a guy who claimed to have good knowledge of this system said, the airlines send the list of boarding passengers to UK and border agency confirms the list, marking the ones who are not allowed to board, those on no fly list or with invalid (forged) visas. Then the airline can deny you boarding right at the airplane gate when they check for your passport one last time. He also mentioned, this system was in place specifically to stop refugees flying into the country easily... Oh man.

But, obviously it would be GREAT if someone who actually works/worked at airline companies doing the boarding checks answer with full certainty. Please tag those if you know any with such credentials.

  • Passenger Manifest is simply the list of passengers on the flight.
    – user13044
    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:28
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    11 Indians caught in Turkey for using forged UK visas: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/…
    – George Y.
    Dec 23, 2016 at 3:50
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    A Russian person wouldn't need to forge a visa to claim asylum in the UK. He could simply buy a Moscow->London->Istanbul ticket and claim asylum in the transit area. That's the reason why airport transit visas exist.
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 23, 2016 at 9:24
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    This is country-specific. In the case of Australia, visas are verified electronically, because they are e-visas and not actually labels placed in a passport. Dec 23, 2016 at 20:41
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    Airlines are not provided with scanners because the information would violate data protection. But it's mostly academic because the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers in the UK destroy their travel document en-route,
    – Gayot Fow
    Dec 24, 2016 at 19:56

2 Answers 2


The answer to the specific question is NO. The airline does not check the Visa electronically.

However, Immigration at the destination can check Visa validity during APIS processing. Whether or not they actually do is something they will not confirm for 'security' reasons.

I want to be vary clear about this (downvote threat). The airline may not even collect Visa information, just verify visually, but must submit a valid primary travel doc, usually a Passport. The receiving Agency can then do a validation internally if they choose to. Again, whether or not they do is something they will not say.

The airlines can collect and transmit Visa specific information.

US CPB can process a Visa number as a secondary doc but it is not required for submission. It may be effectively required for someone who would be denied travel otherwise.

  • How would the UK know if a given person is entering the country or merely transiting? Does the APIS data mention it?
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:02
  • @JonathanReez what point of the process does your question concern? Certainly when the traveler approaches the passport desk and indicates a desire to claim asylum, at that point the UK knows that the traveler intends to enter and remain in the UK.
    – phoog
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:06
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    US CBP expects the airline to report the passengers origin and destination of the current itinerary, even when different from the segment inbound to the US. I do not know if UKBF expects the same though it's a reasonable presumption they do.
    – DTRT
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:10

Airlines would have neither the possibilities nor the knowledge to actually check visas individually for validity. Visas, being official documents attached into another official document, have a variety of security features only a few of which are made public. Some may require special instruments to be verified. An airline cannot reasonably be required to check for all possible security features and — most importantly — they are not going to gain access to the confidential government lists of who got issued which visa for which duration.

If you manage to forge a visa in very good quality, capturing all the known and semi-known security features, the airline will probably let you board because they canont distinguish it from a real one. Immigration at your destination, however, may have kept a list of people who were issued visas and if your name is not on the list you’re probably in for forgery. Furthermore, arriving immigration will likely have some of the more sophisticated security-validating instruments at their desks.

Airlines are required to make sure that the documents presented pass a basic sanity test and that they would — assuming them to be valid — allow for entry into the destination country. Transporting someone who does not have valid-looking documents can cost them an unpleasant fine they want to avoid.

Finally note that it may be beneficial to have a chat with a lawyer before attempting the strategy. As I mentioned before, forging an official document (including a visa) is punishable in most countries. While there may be special circumstances allowing asylum seekers to not be prosecuted for it, I would hope to be on the safe side before leaving. Nothing worse than having to rely on a country’s goodwill after showing that country how well one is able to forge their documents.

  • Should someone seeking asylum be advised to consult a lawyer (or anyone else) in the country they are trying to escape from?
    – WGroleau
    Dec 23, 2016 at 21:27
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    @Wgroleau I never suggested a lawyer based in the country you're trying to flee from. In fact, I think a lawyer of the destination country is a much better choice.
    – Jan
    Dec 23, 2016 at 21:30
  • OK, I can agree with that. But that's hard to do before you get there.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 23, 2016 at 23:09
  • @WGroleau Depending on how surveillant the country you’re trying to flee from is: absolutely! (As if anything about ‘getting asylum’ in a Western country were easy …)
    – Jan
    Dec 23, 2016 at 23:10
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    Of course, it's not actually necessary for an airline "to gain access to the confidential government lists of who got issued which visa for which duration." Instead, they can send the passenger's information to the government that issued the visa and await an instruction either to allow or not to allow the passenger to board the plane. Obviously, some countries may lack such systems (the US does, for example), so the chance of being allowed to board with a forged visa will depend on the country that issued the visa.
    – phoog
    Nov 18, 2018 at 14:53

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