If you’re planning a trip to the UK, you might be considering a direct flight or a layover which means stopping in the EU. While there are advantages to flying in this manner, as opposed to purchasing a ticket for a non-stop flight, they might not outweigh the problems that could arise during this journey.
While a non-stop flight is often more expensive than choosing to lay over or a direct flight that refuels, if your flight sets down in a country that’s part of the Schengen zone, then you might not be making the saving you would expect.
What is the Schengen zone?
First, let’s take a look at what the Schengen zone is, and why it can affect your travel plans.
The zone consists of 26 countries which formed as part of an agreement to create a ‘Europe without borders’ in 1985. Although it is a European initiative not all members of the zone are members of the EU, and not every EU state forms part of the zone. While the idea for the zone was that someone traveling from state to state wouldn’t need to go through passport control every time they left one country and entered another, there is a specific visa which can be used to navigate between them.
The Schengen visa allows travel between the states which make up the zone, but how many countries you can visit, how many times, and for what length of time are dependent on the type of visa you apply for. Single entry visas allow you to enter countries within the area once while the visa is valid. Double entry visas allow you to enter each country twice, and multiple entry visas allow you to enter the area and its different states multiple times while the visa remains valid.
Also Read: Do I Need A Visa To Travel To America
The specific type of visa that may affect your travel plans however is the Airport Transit Schengen visa. This works in a different manner to the single, double and multiple entry passes we mentioned above, as it’s designed to allow you to spend time in an airport transit zone within a Schengen country.
How does it work?
Lets use this example to explain what you would use this visa for and why it can factor into your journey. Say you’re travelling from India to the U.K. for a short trip. You’ve booked a place to stay, you’ve got your U.K. tourist visa and you’re about to book your flights. You notice that although there are non-stop flights available, they’re more expensive than those with a short stop or a layover. You choose a flight that has a layover in Germany before continuing on to the UK.
Germany is a country in the Schengen zone, which is where this visa becomes relevant. Your tourist visa allows you entry into the UK, but not into the transit space in the German airport and it’s this situation that requires to apply for a Schengen visa to travel from India to the UK.
It’s important to check which country you’re making a lay-over or stop in, because not all Schengen states require this visa for every country. While there is a basic list of nations that apply to all 26 states, some countries in the zone have added additional countries so you’ll need to be sure that your country is on the list for that specific country before applying.
The good news is that even taking into account the cost of applying for this additional visa, you’re still likely to pay less for a layover flight, than you are for a non-stop ticket. The visa application itself costs €80 and so isn’t likely to increase the price of your tickets to the point that a layover becomes a disadvantage in terms of price.
How do I apply?
If you feel like the savings you’ll make on your flights are significant enough, you may need to do a little paperwork in order to utilise the visa and enable you to fly with a lay-over.
The first step in the application process is to book an appointment at the embassy or consulate that relates to the country your flight will stop in. Once your appointment is booked, you should proceed to download and complete an application form, which you’ll need to take with you to the embassy. You’ll also need to collect together a few documents to support your application. A passport which will remain valid for 3 months after you leave the transit zone, which must have been issued within the last 10 years and also have at least 2 blank pages.
In addition to the passport and the application form, you’ll need to provide evidence that you intend to return to your home country. In this case your return flight ticket should be enough. Other documentation to prove your application fees have been paid, that you have sufficient travel insurance and two recent passport format photographs may also be required.
It’s worth remembering that you’ll need to allow extra time for this visa to be processed. At present you need to submit your application at least 15 days before you intend to travel, otherwise you won’t be granted the visa in time. It’s recommended to submit the application sooner than this however to avoid any delays. You can submit your application up to 3 months before you intend to travel so if you’re planning your trip in advance this should give you ample time to have your visa processed.
Imogen Loveday is a writer for the Immigration Advice Service.