Why can’t I transit through London?

Question: I’m an Indian national residing in the United States. I was scheduled to fly from Houston to Mumbai on British Airways recently. My itinerary involved a short stopover in London.

In Houston, while checking in with British Airways, I was denied boarding because my work visa was not stamped in my passport. The original visa stamped in my passport had expired and I was traveling to India in order to get my renewed visa stamped at the U.S. consulate in Mumbai.

I was carrying an application that permits me to continue living and working legally in the U.S. and to travel abroad. However, before re-entering the U.S., I’m required to obtain a valid U.S. visa stamp in my passport.

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I tried my best to explain this to the check-in agent; however, she was adamant in not allowing me to transit through London. This was a Catch-22 situation for me — I could not go to India without my visa stamped in my passport and I could not get my visa stamped unless I visited the consulate in India.

The British Airways check-in staff was very unsympathetic and unhelpful. I was quoted a charge of around $500 to allow me to fly on my return ticket when I said I was ready to fly out to Mumbai with a different carrier. I’ve tried to get a partial refund from the airline for my unused ticket, but it hasn’t responded. Can you help me? — Mita Upadhyay, Corpus Christi, Texas

Answer: British Airways should have made its travel policies regarding visas crystal-clear to you. I checked with the airline, and it insists it did.

In order to transit in the UK without a visa on an Indian passport, you need one of seven types of documents, which may include a valid U.S. visa sticker in your passport or a valid U.S. permanent resident card.

“Our staff in Houston would seem to have been correct to deny this passenger boarding,” said an airline spokeswoman. “There are links on ba.com that allow passengers to check their passport and visa requirements for their journey.”

At the same time, British Airways should have been more compassionate about your situation, in the interests of good customer service. You couldn’t get the required stamp without visiting the consulate in Mumbai. Given your predicament, it would have been a nice gesture of the airline to reroute you on a flight that didn’t require a stopover in London.

But it wasn’t required to do that. Unfortunately, having all your paperwork in order is your responsibility and yours alone. Even if British Airways didn’t disclose its visa requirements on its site, you would have still been responsible. And yes, even if your travel agent had told you otherwise.

Still, British Airways offered a refund of $125 and a $600 flight credit, which represents half of your airfare to Mumbai — an exceptionally generous resolution.

106 thoughts on “Why can’t I transit through London?

  1. Every traveler MUST be aware of each country s/he visits or transits as part of her/his itinerary. At a minimum, use the IATA’s travelcenter site:
    http://www.iatatravelcentre.com/home.htm 

    Also, because transiting a foreign airport can be COMPLEX, it is best to do your research by “googling” the COUNTRY NAME + TWOV.

    TWOV means transit without visa.

    If you have a travel agent, they can easily access TIMATIC from their GDS.

    Canada and the U.K. are 2 gotcha sites for NON-RESIDENT ALIENS in the USA. If you are one, go through ASIA instead. The Asian airlines are superior compared to British and American carriers anyway, and perhaps cheaper to India.

    Finally, it’s not the airlines’ job to advice you of any country’s visa requirement. Their job is to make sure you don’t board their aircraft if you’re documents are not in order so they won’t get fined by those countries.

  2. I’m confused here.
    Indian nationals transiting through the UK are covered by the DATV exemptions system, which means they *don’t* need a visa of any kind to transit through the UK as long as they remain airside and have travel documents valid for their end destination (which includes someone travelling to India on an Indian passport!).When Mita says “a short stopover in London”, does he mean ‘two hours airside in Terminal 5’, or does he mean ‘a couple of days groundside, looking at Big Ben etc’? I can understand the latter would be a problem, but I’m completely bemused as to how or why he would have been denied the former. 

    1. I don’t think that we got the whole story from the OP because the stopover wasn’t defined in the article.  Typically, a stopover is classified more than 24 hours; whereas, a layover is less than 24 hours by most airlines.

      According to this website, http://www.immihelp.com/visas/nonustransit.html, the OP needed a Direct Airside Transit visa through London IF he was there for less than 24 hours. If he was there for more than 24 hours, he would have need a regular visa.

      1. My itinerary involved a short stopover in London.

        I think she meant a stop or connection only.

        BA has 2 flights from Houston to Mumbai via LHR.

        1*O#BA 194   IAHLHR- 435P 725A     744 0E
        2*O#BA 139       BOM-1015A1245A#2   744 0E

        3*O#BA 196   IAHLHR- 840P1130A     744 0E
        4*O#BA 199       BOM- 925P1145A#2   777 0EHer problem is that she needed to go back to her country, go to a US embassy/consulate and from there get a US VISA stamped on her passport. But on her way to her country she needed a route that allowed TWOV for Indian Nationals. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong route.

    2. Not according to this document. Indian nationals are in RED and need a transit visa.

      http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/carriers/ukvisarequirements.pdf 

      Indian nationals may not TWOV (even using direct airside transit connections)unless they are in possession of one of the following documents:
      (a) a valid visa for entry to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America and a valid airline ticket for travel via the United Kingdom as part of a journey from another country or territory to the country in respect of which the visa is held;
      (ab) a valid visa for entry to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America and a valid airline ticket for travel via the United Kingdom as part of a journey from the country in
      respect of which the visa is held to another country or territory;
      (b) a valid airline ticket for travel via the United Kingdom as part of a journey from Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America to another country or territory, provided that the transit passenger does not seek to transit the United Kingdom on a date more than six months from the date on which he last entered Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America with a valid visa for entry to that country;
      (c) a valid USA I-551 Permanent Resident Card issued on or after 21 April 1998; or an expired USA i-551 Permanent Resident Card issued on or after 21 April 1998 provided accompanied by a valid I-797 letter authorising the extension, issued by the Bureau of Citizenship; or a stand alone US Immigration visa Form 155A / 155B (attached to a sealed brown envelope);
      (d) a valid Canadian Permanent Resident Card issued on or after 28 June 2002;
      (e) a valid common format Category D visa for entry to an EEA state or Switzerland;
      (f) a valid common format residence permit issued by an EEA State or Switzerland pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No. 1030/2002.

      More information here

      http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/customs-travel/transitthroughtheuk/visa-transit-airside/

      1. Sorry, you’re absolutely right. I knew Indian citizens without permanent US residency could nonetheless go through LHR on a US visa, hence my confusion.

        1. That’s why we route Indians and other Asians (who need VISAs in the USA) via Southeast Asia ONLY. Avoid UK and Canada at all cost! It’s just too much hassle and confusion.

          1. Yes, I’d do the same if I were you.

            Glad (sarcastically) to see my government’s stupid rules are just as good at driving away the next generation of wealthy customers as your government’s stupid rules are 😉

          2. Yup. I just came back from Southeast Asia. Didn’t hear a lot of whining about foreclosures and debt problems there. It’s time the West realizes that Asians have money!

          3. LH? Can Mita TWOV at FRA/MUC without a US Visa stamped Passport. Isn’t this reason for the catch 22?

            I agree with the QR/EK/EY choices though. QR is #1 now.

          4. I merely pointed out the LH offered a very fast connection from the West Coast of the US. To the best of my knowledge Germany does allow TWOV for an Indian national destined to India with transit at the same airport within 24 hours. However if there is a domestic segment involved like IAH>FRA>MUC>BOM then a visa is required.

    3. But his US work visa was expired, and he was only carrying an APPLICATION to live and work in the USA and travel abroad legally — the UK will automatically bounce that if the visa is expired and no secondary paperwork will allow for such travel.

      1. But Mita was merely going HOME to India. What is the logic of not allowing Indians to transit UK to go home to India? BA refused to board Mita in Houston oh his way to Mumbai.

        1. If you read the information on entry into the UK, it must be a VALID visa stamp, not just an application for one.  We may not like the rules, but there is really no way around them.

  3. Nothing to see here. Customer doesn’t bother to learn what the rules are for travelling to a certain destination and then whines to the Travel Troubleshooter when they find out, usually just before boarding.

    I am not sure if BA offered the compensation before or after Chris was involved. IN any case it looks to be very generous.

    1. That’s not entirely fair. It’s not ridiculous to assume that transitting through an airport (without going landside) will exempt you from the requirements you’d have to meet if you were to actually enter the country.

      And indeed, as someone with a US passport, or someone travelling via Singapore, you’d be correct. Sure, the US doesn’t allow visa-free, immigration-free transit at all ever (hence the stamp in my UK passport showing a 30-minute ‘business’ stay in the US, when my incoming flight from Haiti was very late but AA managed to hold my connection), but it’s almost unique in the world in doing so.The issue here is that the UK (like Canada and Schengen, but unlike Asian and Mideastern countries) imposes punitive restrictions on people from India and Africa (but not North America or Europe) seeking to transfer airside. I only found that fact out *just now*, as a British citizen resident overseas who’s a frequent traveller.

        1. Tony, Indian nationals need a visa to ENTER Singapore, but not to TRANSIT. India is one of the biggest markets for @SQAirlines:twitter.

          In the past, Indians could apply to enter Singapore (to take the free Singapore tour) while in transit, if they had connections later in the day, with confirmed tickets, and visas for the destination country.

          1. I thought so, too, since most of my Indian friends and their families also take SQ. But I could not read a definitive statement that addressed the situation of Mita (no US Visa stamped in passport.) Will s/he be hassled in transit?

      1. Yes John but there’s one KEY point you’re missing…you’re ASSUMING there is no problem. I would never ASSUME anything when it comes to immigration law and the laws governing my ability to enter a country. I could assume because my passport is valid for two more months I could travel internationally for a two week holiday but I would be wrong. Most countries require a passport to be valid for 3-6 after the return date to travel. We all know what happens when you ASSume things. 

      2. It IS ridiculous to assume you can do an airside connection with no visa considerations in a country.  The US won’t (as you know), the UK won’t, and I’m sure there are plenty of other countries that won’t.

        It’s not the airline’s job to go over all the various visa requirements with you ahead of time.  It is the travelers responsibility.  (But if you book through a travel agent, they should go over this with you.)

        1. The UK will for most travellers (including all US citizens, and Indian citizens with valid visas for the country they’re visiting that isn’t India). The US is unique in its bizarre refusal to allow this.

          The reason for the UK’s rule is to stop the UK being responsible for people who are deported when they arrive at their destination – so if you don’t have a US visa and you’re from a country that’s not part of VoA, you can’t come to London to transfer onto a flight to the US, otherwise you’d be sent back to London when you were refused entry to the US.

          The fact that it’s written in a way that also stops people flying *from* countries where they don’t have valid visas *to* their home countries (where, obviously, they will be allowed in without question) is really, really stupid, and is something that nobody in their right mind would expect anyone to do.

          1. Especially since the visa (stamp) cannot be renewed in the US, but the legal status can. For example if my work status is extended, I can legally work in the US for years after my work visa expires, only needing to renew the visa if I travel outside and want to return to the US. But the UK doesn’t take that status into account, only looking at the expired visa stamp in your passport!

          2. Just came across this article.

            I’m flying to Chennai from Boston by the end of November. ( BA, London Heathrow) . Transit Time is 2 hours.

            The thing is, I have my student Visa stamped on my passport , but my H1B just got approved and will be valid from October 1, 2013. (Student Visa is Valid till December 30th 2013). I will be returning back in January.

            Technically I will be on H1B from October 1, but I shall get the stamping done only in December (Chennai).

            Currently, I have my EAD card, I’m on OPT [This is until October 1].

            Do I need a Visa – for Airside transit (2 hours)

    2. I can see your point, i think that everybody should check out travel arrangements before hand, but in this case I dont think it was possible for the person to get it stamped before they travelled to india. Though on the other hand they didnt have a valid pass I guess . . . ..

    3. I wonder is Chris should come up with a site called:

      AskAdvocateElliott.com

      Travelers can ask questions first before they make big mistakes.

      How about it Chris?

      1. Add to that a “Find a Travel Agent” section, a la Car Talk’s “Mechanics Files”.  (I know, I suggested this yesterday, but the topic fits here, too.)

  4. It’s the passengers responsibilty to all documents in correct order. When is the travelling public going to learn to do something for themselves instead of expecting others to do it for them. It’s like another travel web site I belong to, the simplest stupidest questions, when a little research on the behalf of the Poster would have answered the question, but too lazy or too stupid to do the work themselves

    1. Let’s have some sympathy for Mita Upadhyay. As she said she was in a Catch-22 situation. We also don’t know if she was incorrectly advised by other people. Visas, Transit w/o Visa, Health document issues are not your average run-of-the-mill travel problems. It can be perplexing even to the most seasoned travel agents.

  5. Even when one purchases a ticket directly from the airline office, staff do not advise you of airside visa requirements and not even at check in. The chances are one can transit hassle free without the airside visa, immigration don’t usually check.. I was denied boarding from Montreal to Frankfurt by Air Canada on LH ticket because of a transit visa issue, finally LH put me on a flight to Toronto connecting on an LH flight to Frankfurt after I signed a waiver absolving the airline from any liability; I held a LH ticket to my next destination. LH never bothered to tell me when I bought the ticket or denied me boarding at check in.

  6. The rules are set by hundreds of governments, not by the airlines.  It is the responsibility of citizens of those hundreds of countries to determine what rules apply to them, not the airlines’ responsibility.

    1. True. The real issue is why the UK has to hassle the likes of Mita Upadhyay who is legally living and working in the USA and simply needs to travel back to India to get her passport stamped with a US Visa. BA is fine, it’s the UK regulations that are idiotic.

        1. But it shouldn’t matter *from the UK’s point of view* whether she’s got a Green Card, whether she’s been overstaying on a temporary work visa, whether she’s been working on a tourist visa, or whether she’s been deported and flagged never to be allowed back in. She’s going *to India*, not *to the US*, and she’s got an Indian passport so she will certainly be let in to India.

          1. But it does, due to the possible threat of deportation FROM the US, leaving them the burden of someone no longer authorized to travel back to the US, and them needing to take responsibility that the people are really moving on to India, not just staying in the UK.  AGAIN – we may not like the rules, but there are no ways around them.  So having the VALID paperwork, rather than just an application, would have avoided this problem.  And getting their paperwork arranged BEFORE expiration would have been  a better choice as well!

          2. No, that doesn’t make any sense.

            If BA were worried about her not being allowed back into the US, then that’s an issue for the return flight. Obviously, they shouldn’t let her board the return flight BOM-LHR-IAH if she can’t sort out a US visa while she’s home, but that’s irrelevant to this flight.

            Unlike US airports, but like nearly all non-US hubs, LHR has completely different routes for airside and groundside passengers, so there is no opportunity for her to stay in the UK and no need to try and stop her. Transit passengers at LHR do not pass through UK immigration, and do not have any opportunity to leave the airport.

            You’re right to say that those are the rules and people need to stick to them – but you’re wrong to claim there is any sane reason or excuse for the rules.

          3. Also UK can always deport him to India as soon as he arrives London. That would be the desired result anyway.

  7. I know a few Indians who fly back home regularly.  I thought Emirates was pretty popular, and it doesn’t look like they have onerous visa rules if spending less than 24 hours at the airport.  I see plenty of 1 stop IAH-DXB-BOM itineraries.  The return trip looks like the best bet would be a 3.5 hour wait, but outbound means waiting at least 7 hours at the airport up to overnight.  Also – I don’t know if I could handle the 15 hours from Houston to Dubai.  I think there’s a hotel right at the airport terminal.

    Anyone know what “Transit Without Visa” means?  It sounds simple, but I’ve found that simple phrases can be confoundedly complex sometimes.  I’m assuming it means one can remain at the airport for up to 24 hours if holding a ticket to another destination.

    1. It means you can TRANSIT a country [on the way to another country] without applying for and getting a VISA.

      The definition of TRANSIT is country dependent.

      1. That’s what I thought it meant, but then again you mention the definition of transit varies.

        Of course I’ve been in transit through various airports, and nobody really ever checked my passport.  I remember spending about an hour at Haneda, although that was a case where we got back on the same plane before heading back to the US.  Someone else in my party had my passport.

        1. ypw, allow me to explain further. Countries like the UK, Canada, and the USA require transit visas for some foreign nationals.

          If you are one of these unlucky foreigners you will need to get a Visa just to transit these countries. 

          So let’s say a Pakistani tourist wants to go Mexico and his flights transit in LAX, then he needs a visa for the USA. The same is true for Canada unless the airport is YVR or YYZ and for specific airlines only.

          Usually major HUB Inl’l. cities have airports that have airside transit connections so they can facilitate TWOV.  [This makes it possible to TWOV is HKG, SIN. FRA, MUC, AMS, etc.]  I believe some airports (like I think PEK) allow landside TWOV.

          But the UK, even if LHR has airside connections still refuse to grant TWOV to some nationalities.

          In the case of Mita, he was simply returning home to his native India from Houston. But BA denied him boarding because he did not have a visa to transit in Heathrow to change planes to Mumbai. [I wonder whether BA will transport a deportee from the USA to India via LHR.]

          ——

          Please do not confuse this case with a Visa ENTRY requirement. In Haneda, the airline wanted to make sure you had a US passport so it did not have to check if you needed a visa to ENTER the USA.

          1. My situation was a little more complicated than that, but I won’t elaborate.

            What I noticed when researching this was that Dubai is a vaiable stop for 24 hours because they apparently don’t require anything as long as the passenger is scheduled to be in the airport less than 24 hours.

            It sounds like it’s in their interests to be as friendly to those using DBX as a hub.

            However, do they have any kind of security to keep people from leaving the airport without a proper visa to do so?

          2. Dubai actually gives Americans (and  some other nationalities) a [Free] Visa Upon Arrival good for 30 days.

            Emirates (EK) can also request and get for passengers a 96 hour “Transit” Visa. The meaning of transit here is that one gets to get out of the airport and tour/stay in Dubai.

            DXB is a very busy hub to Asia, and the wait in the airport can be very long (as you said). Many Asian passengers love to shop in Dubai and request long layovers.

          3. “However, do they have any kind of security to keep people from leaving the airport without a proper visa to do so?”
            Yes – they have immigration control like any other country. Trying to leave DBX without a visa (unless you’re from a country where the UAE has a visa-on-arrival agreement) will prove as successful as trying to go through US immigration without a visa.

          4. I don’t recall exactly what happened when I was at Haneda.  I remember we were stopped for about 90 minutes, and were able to leave the plane.  I seem to recall that we waited in a closed off waiting lounge at the gate, and that new passengers had to go through checkin before they were allowed in the departure area.

            Of course what I’m thinking of is someone waiting for a separate connecting flight at a different gate who is probably going to want to kill some time in the terminal shopping, eating, or even sleeping.

            The last time I did anything like that was at Kimpo Airport.  As a US citizen I was allowed to leave and I did go shopping in Seoul before taking a cab back to the airport.  However, I thought it’s possible for anyone in the secure area of an international terminal to wander around freely or even leave.  Or have things changed?

  8. I pity all European carriers, but @British_Airways:twitter in particular. Transiting Europe is tough, but the United Kingdom is a special nightmare of rules best described as idiotic, with France not too far behind.

    This is just another reason the European carriers are losing traffic to Gulf and Asian carriers.

    From IAH, I would recommend Qatar Airways to BOM. If one has to transit Europe, I recommend VIE, FRA, HEL, and ZRH as the gateway airports.

  9. First of all, it’s ‘Travel to India 101’ to know about one’s visa status.

    I see some good suggestions here about traveling to India via southeast Asia.
    Being a frequent flyer to India, I can say that there are definitely some
    options through Europe. One just has to be careful while choosing.

    As of now, Brussels (American Airlines / Jet Airways), Frankfurt
    (United/Continental/US Airways/Lufthansa) and Amsterdam (KLM/Delta) allow
    stopovers for connecting flights from USA to India without a valid US Visa.

    London and Paris do NOT allow connections unless there is a valid (unexpired) US visa stamped, immigrant or non-immigrant.

    Any experienced travel agent dealing with tickets to India/Asia knows these facts as these rules keep changing often.

    I have come across a lot of experienced travel agents in US who often work on domestic or European flights only. They are often unaware of the visa requirements of international transit/connecting passengers through European airports.

    Airlines very often do not display the updated information on their websites. Only the Department of State or similar authority of the country in which the connection takes place has the necessary information. European countries are good about displaying this information in unambiguous manner.

    A lot of immigration forums also discuss about this issue, although these are only guidelines and may not have the most updated information. Google is a powerful tool, as Chris has warned us before.

  10. I challenge the survey question because I don’t believe it’s the airlines duty to inform people of international travel requirements before they fly. 

    Airlines are responsible for enforcing policy so people don’t get on planes to countries they can’t enter legally but they should not be responsible for providing immigration laws to their customers. This is the responsibility of the US Department of State or the host or transit country’s equivalent. 

    I think BA was far TOO generous in it’s offer for a credit, something they surely didn’t have to do.

    1. Yeah, I’m with you.

      I have friends who have green cards or are on work visas – a side effect of growing up between NYC and DC.

      These people are always hyper-aware of the necessary paperwork they need to travel and maintain residency.  It is not the responsibility of any carrier to understand the different equivalents of State Departments and travel rules for each country – they only have to make sure that the passenger has the appropriate paperwork that checklists in their system say the person needs.

      I’m trying to figure out why the OP let his work visa expire in the first place.  I can understand it’s not always easy to plan trips overseas, but it’s not like you don’t know when your work visa expires.  There should have been ample time to plan the trip while the visa was still valid.

      1. I’ve had coworkers from India who were going to have their visas expire.  In some cases they literraly can’t have it handled in the US.  USCIS can’t extend certain types of visas, and only US consulates and embassies overseas are allowed to issue certain types of visas.

        Sometimes it’s a really nasty bureacracy that one has to deal with.  I think it also gets really messy when a passport is going to expire.

        1. Oh, I understand that you can’t always have it handled in the US.   That wasn’t my point at all – my point was that the OP waited until the work visa expired before attempting to travel. They couldn’t plan their travel more efficiently?

          There’s navigating the bureaucracy, but there’s also knowing you have to do so and being well prepared. 

          1. Yeah – but often it’s a matter of work schedules too.  I’ve had travel plans that were nixed because the boss wanted my butt in my office chair.

          2. True.  But I would think even the most Dilbert-esque boss (and I’ve had them) should see the logic of allowing someone on a work visa that can only be re-approved in their home country to actually go to that home country.  It’s not like you’re canceling a weekend trip to a B&B – there are significant legal consequences.

            And if the boss doesn’t concur, that’s when you ask HR to step in, because they don’t want the hassle. 

          3. Work schedules can easily be impacted by he expiration of a work visa – after all, no visa, no work!  So NOT a viable excuse!

      2. I know, it’s a very old thread but to answer your question – it is very possible that OP’s work visa renewal papers could have been delayed from USCIS and then availability of seats on flights to India.

    2. If the airlines are able to enforce immigration policy when a customer checks in, they can just as easily inform the customer when the ticket is purchased. International flights in and out of the US require passengers to submit travel document details prior to flight, so they have all the information needed to properly inform the customer. “Yes, we know what the rules are, but won’t tell you unless you break then… oh, and let me tear up that ticket for you.”

      I am confused by the refund/credit of $725 (“half” her ticket price). Did Mita end up flying only the return leg and so was refunded half the ticket, or fly both ways on another carrier and British kept half the money? I would expect this to be treated like an Involuntary Denied Boarding where options would include a full refund or credit for unused segments.

      1. Yes, this is IDB. Her whole ticket would have been “refundable” at that point – Houston.

        If she could not get a US Visa approved while in Mumbai? The other half of the ticket would have been useless, too.

      2. I posted earlier asking why we don’t know where she purchased her ticket.  If she had called the carrier then questions could have been asked.  But my guess is that it was done online, hence just a point and click with no information provided.

      3. Actually, what the gate agents in International Flights are trained for and what a reservation agent is trained for are two very different things.  Basic immigration information is available to a reservation agent, but specific requirements, based on a MULTITUDE of differing conditions, NO.  While the gate agents look for certain things specifically – and are far more versed in the needs of their station.  You cannot expect a computer system to have information on each/every possible situation that impacts standard visa requirements – but the gate agents will be responsible for following those laws, and know that job.  A reservation agent isn’t an embassy or a consulate — so why do we expect them to operate as if they are?

      4. The same thing happened to me. I originally planned to fly from IAH to BOM via London. I was denied boarding, Since I did not board the first flight, BA cancelled both my tickets. I only got 125$ back. I paid more than 1500$. I should have read the immigration rules more carefully. I am a student and 1500$ is my 2 months salary.

  11. My question is simple: why didn’t the traveler return to Mumbai while her US Visa was still valid? When you wait until your documents have expired, you’re at the mercy of every glitch in the legal requirements of every country you travel to/through/from.

    1. because there are other documents showing valid stay in the US. Its not illegal to stay in the US if your visa is expired; there are documents like employment card, I-20 for students, that are issued by the DoJ and supercede the visa for legal residence….the visa is just for re-entry

    1.  Once had a co-worker in that situation (from Slovakia). It could not be done in the USA, but he didn’t have to go all the way home (the consular affairs section at the embassy in Ottawa handled it).

  12. I think if you don’t get out of the Transit Area you don’t need a Visa. Usually a Travel Agent have quite good information about visa and transit rules, even then, the responsibility is at the traveler, not the Airlines nor the travel agent.

    1. Asiansm Dan, that used to be true, but not anymore. People from some nationalities are allowed to change flights (without exiting the transit area) without a visa, but some nationalities considered more of a risk requires transit visas.

      By the way, that affects passengers connecting in US as well: it hasn’t been possible, since 2003, for international travelers that require a visa to come to US to take connection flights without a visa (for instance, a Chilean travelling Santiago-Miami-Nassau or a Russian travelling Moscow-Seattle-Toronto or a Brazilian travelling Sao Paulo – Los Angeles – Tokyo).

  13. This seems rather silly but why didn’t you just fly on Air India from JFK nonstop to Mumbai?   You don’t need any internal US travel documents to go to New York from Houston – then you just get on the Air India flight # JFK . . .. problem solved with no transit issues.

    YOU as the traveler are responsible for knowing the rules because guess what?  The rules apply to you personally, not to the airline. 

    Yes, BA offered an unusually generous resolution because you complained to a journalist who took your case. . . . and reported on it. 

  14. To answer the poll question, yes the airlines do a good job.  They have links to Timatic which we use all the time.  The OP got here, she needed to pay attention to the details for getting home.   

  15. Isn’t there an Indian embassy or consulate somewhere in the U.S. where Mita could’ve gone to get this visa stamp, instead of having to fly back to India in the first place? It would have prevented this whole problem.

    1. The Indian embassy or consulate can’t do jack about securing a US visa. There’s an consulate in Houston, but I believe they simply forward all requests to New York. All one could do with the Indian officials would be to get a passport renewed, which was done.

      A lot of visa requests can only be serviced by the US State Department overseas.  I’ve known of a lot of people who ended up going outside the US to get their requests serviced.

    2. A foreigner can change his/her STATUS and extend some visas inside the USA, but they must go overseas to get a US VISA stamped in their passport. Used to be able to just go to Mexico or some place closer, but that changed a long time ago. They have to go HOME to their native country and get a US VISA there. This was what Mita was doing. He was simply trying to get HOME to India. This is how bizarre this case is.

      1. Some countries don’t have US diplomatic missions, although I believe that requests would be assigned to a specific US embassy or consulate depending on the home country and perhaps specific location.

        I’ve worked with and know several people from Iran. They’ve been able to get US visas, although I don’t remember where they went to get them.

    3. This is not always the case — the work visa is extended from his home country, and needs to be extended from there for continuance in the US.  So – back to India (perhaps if he had done so in a timely matter, this wouldn’t be an issue!)

  16. By the way, I found out that Mita could mean two different pronounciations, where one is a male name and the other is female.  I guess it hasn’t really been clarified.

  17. Why in the world would anyone depend on an airline to tell them about these kinds of requirements? That is just asking for it. BA was pretty darn generous.

    1. oh wait, I asked the BA people nicely and they still yelled at me its  my responsibility to check the rules which I DID before I arrived at the airport.  The rule says I do not need a transit visa.  

  18. I think a lot of the confusion with Mita’s situation comes from the situation with immigration.
    I suspect the “application that permits me to continue living and working legally in the U.S.” was an approved I797. I797s grant people legal STATUS, which is different from a visa and only valid while in the US. It can be used to obtain a visa at the home country’s consulate once you leave, however, once you leave the US you are no longer in any status. So Mita was trying to enter the UK with an expired US visa and an approved document that has no immigration value outside the US and can now only be used to obtain another visa in India.
    But this situation is not a Catch-22 at all. There is a visa requirement for Indian nationals in transit through the UK, but that visa can be an UNEXPIRED US visa or a valid UK visa, it has to be one or another. So why not just get a UK visa for transit through Heathrow? You can get that at the British embassy in the US…

    1. Isn’t the Catch-22 that s/he needed a current visa on her/his passport but the only way to make it current was to get to India and s/he couldn’t fly BA home because her/his US Visa was expired?

      There wouldn’t have been a Catch-22 is s/he took another route. Perhaps over Asia or the Middle East.

      Obviously Mita did not know that when s/he bought the BA tickets. S/he had no clue a transit visa would be needed in London just to get home to India.

      1. S/he makes it sound like there is no way the visa s/he needed could have been obtained in the US, which is true for the US visa. But to go through London s/he needed a UK transit visa, with a valid US visa potentially being used as a substitute.
        S/he could have gotten a UK transit visa in the US and avoided all of this.

  19. I am really tired of reading stories about the big bad travel industry because “no one told me”  I needed something.  What ever happened to personal responsibility.   In todays world with all the information readily available courtesy of the internet, people should not expect any refunds because they didn’t bother to find out the correct information.

    1. Yes, that may be true for some people.  However, for people who already follow  AND check the latest rule and got blindsided, its not fair.  It happens to me when on paper (YES BY REGULATION), I am allowed to board but they still refused me anyways.  I tried to be nice to the check-in agent but they were rude to me (they were also rude to other people waiting in the line for no reason).  Yes it is British Airways.    

  20. I just had a similar issue.  I was travelling to Singapore, from Boston via Heathrow, and then go to Singapore.  My country is NOT on the list that requires transit visa.  PLUS, my stopover was only 90 minutes.  The BA check-in agent at Logan refused to board me saying that I need a transit visa.  She gave me the piece of paper on transit visa.  Ironically, my country Indonesia was not on the list that requires visa.  I called the UK border agency at Heathrow terminal 5, they told me I do not need a visa after inquiring my nationality.  However, my situation is the same as above as my US visa is expired and I am travelling home to renew my visa.  (I GUESS i chose the wrong route and moreover the wrong airlines).  But the regulation is not even clear on the website.  Yes I did check.

    I couldnt even get a refund.  I bought the ticket online.  I called the BA 800 number after I got home from the airport.  The guy on the phone said he did not see any documentation in the system saying that I dont have a visa (hence I dont fly on the flight that I booked).  OUTRAGEOUS!  he told me to “phsically talk to the agent at Logan airport” (yes direct quote, physically, I need to be there, they dont have phone).  I told him that I could not go back to Logan because I will be travelling through NEWARK.  HE said (chuckling) well you need to go to the airport anyways right?  I said “NO, I am taking the train.”

    Plus, the people at the check-in counter were not polite.  One girl said “It is your responsibility to check the visa requirement”  Oh wait I did, and the UK immigration website says I DO NOT need a visa.  Plus, while I am walking away from the country.  The BA lady said to another lady that first served me “did you offload him?  you can get 500 points from doing that”  Yes literally, she’s more concerned to getting points.  She should have waited before saying that.  Plus those ladies at the COUNTER forgot to document my reason for not flying.  hence I couldnt get a refund!!!!!

    I will not fly BA ever again.  or fly through heathrow.  

      1. Info I got from “visa checker” from the UK border agency website says that I do not need a visa since I am only transiting less than 24 hours.

        Yes, you generally need a visa to transit the UK(unless you will arrive in the UK by air, and leave the UK by air less than 24 hours later)
        You told us that
        you are a national of Indonesia.you are coming to UK to Transit.you are normally and legally living in United States.What do you need to do?If you are coming to the UK briefly as part of your journey to another country, you may need to obtain a UK visa before you travel.If you will arrive on a flight, remain in the arrival lounge of the airport without passing through immigration control, and then depart on another flight from the same airport, you do not need a UK visa. This is called ‘transiting airside’.If you will arrive in the UK, pass through immigration control and then leave the UK within 48 hours, you must generally obtain a visitor in transit visa before you travel. Some travellers are exempt from the need to obtain a visa – this is called the ‘transit without visa concession’.The Transiting the UK section contains more information, and explains how to apply for a visa if you need one.If you will spend more than 48 hours in the UK, you must obtain another type of visitor visa before you travel. The Visiting the UK section lists the types of visitor visa.

  21. The State dept. link is:

    http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go.html

    you can select from there – Chris just sent everyone to State.gov- which is a fairly daunting place if you are not travel savvy . . . . .

    How hard would it have been to drill down to the correct link and provide it – with the proviso that “the links provided in this post are valid as of the date of the response, and can and do change.” Not that the clueless would read that either –

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