Transit Visa USA: C1, C2 and C3 Visas

C Visas allow you to enter the U.S and stay for your layover.

Transit Visa USA

You might be travelling to your final destination but have a few layovers on the way. One of those layovers is within the United States. This means that you will have to transit through the U.S. To do this, you will need a U.S transit visa.

U.S transit visas are denominated with the letter C. They allow you to enter the U.S and stay for your layover. Afterwards, when your planned flight or ship leaves for your next destination, you will have to leave the U.S.

The U.S government defines the C visas for immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. Immediate and continuous transit means that your itinerary to your final destination includes a layover in the U.S and you will have to stop there, but have no other privileges.

With a C visa you are not allowed to stay more than your approved time, and this is not a visa for tourism or business. If you want to engage in tourism or business activities in the U.S, you will have to get the B-1 or B-2 visas.

However, if you already have a B-1 or B-2 visa for the U.S, and you have to transit through the country, you do not need a C visa. You will be allowed transit with a B visa. In addition, if you qualify as part of the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need a U.S transit visa.

Types of USA transit visa

The C visa is a transit only visa, but it has three categories which most people fall into. These are the types of USA transit visas:

C-1 – General Transit Visa

C-1 is the transit visa for non-U.S citizens passing through the U.S on a layover on their way to their final destination.

C-2 – U.N Headquarters Transit Visa

C-2 is the transit visa for non-U.S citizens traveling to the United Nations (U.N) Headquarters in New York City or United Nations officials transiting through the U.S to go to a final destination. Those who have this visa are only allowed to be in the vicinity of the U.N headquarters. They are allowed to leave the U.N headquarters or a location in its vicinity only when they depart the U.S.

C-3 – Foreign Government Transit Visa

C-3 is the transit visa for foreign government officials traveling through the U.S on a layover on their way to their final destination. The purpose of the travel must be for government or work related activities.

Requirements for transit visa USA

To be eligible for a transit or C visa to the U.S, the person must fulfill one of the criteria:

  • Be a general non-U.S citizen on their way to a final destination and only passing through the U.S
  • Be a non-U.S citizen or U.N official going to the U.N headquarters in New York City
  • Be a foreign government official transiting through the U.S to their final destination on a work related trip.

If you do not belong to one of these categories, you are not allowed to get a C transit visa. In addition, another detail of the C visa is that there are no dependent visas. This means that all those transiting to the U.S, including spouses and children must have a transit visa.

For example, if a foreign government official is transiting through the U.S with family, the family members must have individual C visas too.

Application for transit visas

The application procedure for the transit C visa is similar to other visas. You need to follow these steps to submit a full application for your C visa.

Identify which type of C visa you need

If you are not travelling to the U.N headquarters and are not a foreign government official, you will need to apply for a C-1 visa. Know which type of visa you need so that you can attach all the documents and file the right forms.

Apply online by filing form DS-160

The DS-160 form is the first step to applying. Fill in the necessary fields and then submit the form online. You will get a barcode number and confirmation page, which you will need later for your documents file.

Pay the application fee

The application fee for the C type visas is $160. You need to pay this amount and save the receipt since you will need it later. There might be other fees depending on your location and the Embassy you are applying from. However, there are no visa issuance fees for the C-2 visa. This is because reciprocity measures have not been put in place for this type of transit visa.

Schedule your interview

The next step is to schedule your interview. Try to schedule your visa interview as soon as possible. U.S Embassies have a high workload, so it might take them a while to schedule your interview. The earlier it is, the better it is for your travel arrangements. When you schedule your interview, you will get an interview confirmation letter which you need later.

Submit the required documents

You need to prepare a file of documents to have with you when you go for the visa interview. It is best to attach all documents and even ones you may not necessarily need. If your file is missing any documents, there will be reason enough for the Embassy to delay or even deny your visa.

Below is a table with the required documents for your file based on the type of transit visa you need.

Required Documents

  • Passport
  • DS-160 form confirmation page
  • Interview confirmation letter
  • One photograph
  • Visa fee receipts
  • Proof that you are allowed to enter the country of your final destination
  • Ticket or itinerary to your final destination
  • A letter which states the purpose of your visit to your final destination
  • Proof that you are financially able to cover your expenses during your transit
  • Evidence that you will return to your home or another country after your stay in the U.S. This could be a property deed, apartment lease, or other proof.
  • If you are HIV positive, you will need a letter from your doctor explaining your medical state and the risks associated with your condition, as well as proof of medical health insurance
  • If you have been arrested before in the U.S, you need to submit a letter explaining the offense, the reasons for the arrest, and proof on whether you were convicted or not.

Required Documents

  • Passport
  • DS-160 confirmation code
  • One photograph
  • Receipt of fee payments
  • If you are a U.N official transiting through the U.S, provide proof that you are allowed entry into the country of your final destination

Note: You can apply for the C-2 visa only when a request or petition by the U.N or other foreign missions or organizations has been submitted to the nearest U.S embassy.

Required Documents

  • Passport
  • DS-160 confirmation code
  • One photograph
  • Receipt of fee payments
  • Proof that you are allowed to enter the country of your final destination
  • Ticket or itinerary to your final destination
  • Proof that you are financially able to cover your expenses during your transit
  • A letter which states the purpose of your visit to your final destination

Attend your visa interview

With your document file, you should attend the visa interview at the scheduled time. If your interview is successful, you will have higher chances of getting a transit visa.

If you have been granted the visa, you will be able to transit through the U.S successfully to your next or final destination.

U.S Transit Visa Processing Time

Processing times for any U.S visa depend on the workload that the U.S Embassy from which you are applying has. If there are more applications, it will take longer. However, since the transit visa is for such a short duration of time, its processing time is generally  faster than for other visas.

From the time you submit your application, expect to wait for a minimum of 5 working days to receive a response on your visa status. The Embassy will let you know whether you have been granted or denied the transit visa. This is only an average time estimate, though, so if it takes longer, do not assume that your visa has been denied.

Since you only need the transit visa at the U.S airport, you can give the information of what airport you will be in and in what date. If you submit a request and it is granted, the U.S Embassy could send the documents to that airport with the visa, and it will be waiting for you when you transit through the U.S.

Validity of Transit Visas

Transit visas mean that the person holding it does not intend to stay in the U.S and has another final destination. That is why is it necessary to prove you have a final destination by submitting tickets or visas for another country.

Because it is assumed that transit does not take too much time, the validity of the C visa is short too. All types of C transit visas (C-1, C-2, and C-3 visa) are valid for a period of a maximum of 29 days or until the date to depart the U.S is on your ticket, whichever one is sooner.

This means that if you enter the U.S on September 1st, you must leave on or before September 29th. However, if you have a ticket to your final destination on September 20th, you must leave the U.S on September 20th.

Restrictions of Transit Visas

Since the transit visa is different from other non-immigrant visas in the sense that you are not allowed to stay in the U.S, there are several restrictions to what you can do while in the U.S. With a transit visa (C-1, C-2, or C-3), you are not allowed to do the following:

  • Cannot stay in the U.S more than the designated time
  • Cannot travel or study in the U.S
  • Cannot become employed in the U.S
  • Cannot extend the transit visa
  • Cannot adjust or change the status of the transit visa
  • Cannot apply for a Green Card with a transit visa
  • Cannot have dependents with only one transit visa
  • Dependents cannot travel, work, or study in the U.S