The application is to be formally submitted in 2019, leaving communities time to discuss the project.
A spokesman for Heathrow said: "The application is intended to be formally submitted in 2019, after the government has designated the National Policy Statement.
"To inform its planning application, Heathrow will undertake extensive engagement and consultation with local communities and other stakeholders on various aspects of the scheme including environmental impacts and project design."
The next steps will be to start wildlife and other environmental surveys in the areas surrounding the airport.
Around 4,000 homes were sent information about the survey, which will start in early 2017.
Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s expansion director, said: "Heathrow has its team in place, working to deliver the benefits of expansion in the most sustainable way.
"During the detailed planning process there will be lots of opportunities for local communities, industry partners and other interested parties to help shape our proposals."
She added: "Together, we want to create a plan that not only boosts the economy - locally and across the UK - but one that delivers a lasting legacy in the local area and tackles important local issues including reducing noise and meeting air quality requirements ."
The announcement comes as residents flocked in their hundreds to two public meetings held by long standing opposer of the runway, MP John McDonnell , on December 8 to voice their concerns.
Harlington Baptist Church Hall filled up with residents who discussed traffic congestion and the toxic pollution levels, two prominent issues the area faces in light of expansion.
The Labour MP said: "The message from these public meetings couldn’t be clearer, local residents are going to fight this runway all the way.
"A third runway at Heathrow is undeliverable and I believe we will stop it from ever being built.
"I’m also fairly certain that the legal action from a coalition of local authorities will be successful.
" The decision by this government to build a third runway was shameful and remains a huge threat to l ocal residents who face losing their homes, schools, community centre and village life .
"And when you add in the air pollution, noise and climate change concerns then it becomes even more obvious that this runway makes no sense."
The government announced in October 2016 that a new runway at Heathrow is its preferred option for airport expansion.
Those opposing the runway watched in horror from Harmondsworth , one of the "Heathrow villages", as Prime Minister Theresa May approved plans.
Others, such as the Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the choice and said they were "extremely happy" , predicting employment figures will rocket for the borough.
What are Heathrow Airport planning on doing next?
From start to finish, the next process is expect to take around four years, the airport has said.
2018: A Government led consultation for the public is expected take place, showing the draft National Policy Statement (NPS).
The consultation will be carried out independently from Heathrow.
Once this has been handed in, the NPS will lay out a planning policy for airport expansion and set out the policy tests that the project must meet.
MPs will vote on it as late as Spring 2018.
2019: An application for development consent will be submitted by Heathrow
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