The United Kingdom has amended the Immigration (Passenger Transit Visa) Order 2014, now requiring Georgian and Russian nationals to secure a transit visa when passing through the UK without formally entering the country. The change aims to counter asylum claims made by individuals from these countries, which have reportedly misused the UK’s existing transit provisions.
Contrary to typical procedures where a statutory instrument takes at least 21 days to come into force after being presented before Parliament, the amendment was implemented just a day after its introduction. This exceptional move comes in response to concerns that there would be a surge in Georgian and Russian nationals traveling to the UK to claim asylum before the new amendment could take effect.
The new order, which came into effect on 8th September 2023, provides some leeway for individuals who had already booked their transit travel before this date. Those arriving in the UK for transit on or before 5th October 2023 will not be subjected to this new requirement, provided they made their travel booking before the order came into force.
The Home Office has stated that nationals from Georgia and Russia have consistently ranked highest in terms of misusing the UK’s transit provisions to claim asylum since 2018. The new requirement is expected to serve as a preventative measure, discouraging individuals from these countries from traveling to the UK under the guise of transiting and then subsequently claiming asylum.
The new transit visa requirement has immediate implications for Georgian and Russian nationals planning to transit through the UK en route to other countries. It adds an additional layer of paperwork and preparation, potentially affecting the choices these nationals make when booking international travel.
While the fast-tracking of the amendment suggests an urgency in managing transit-related asylum claims from these countries, it also opens the door for questions on its abrupt enforcement and the impact it could have on innocent travellers who were not intending to abuse the system.
The United Kingdom’s amendment to its Immigration (Passenger Transit Visa) Order is a direct response to a perceived loophole exploited by Georgian and Russian nationals. While the move may be effective in reducing fraudulent asylum claims, its rapid implementation has brought its own set of challenges and questions, both for authorities and for travellers affected by the new regulations.