You might be traveling 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 US. To do this, you will need a Transit Visa for USA.
A US Transit Visa is a permit to to enter the US and stay for a layover. Afterward, when your planned flight or ship leaves for your next destination, you will have to leave the US.
The US government issues C1 visas for USA for immediate and continuous transit through the country. Immediate and continuous transit means that your itinerary to your final destination includes a layover in the US and you will have to stop there, but have no other privileges.
With a Transit Visa for USA, you are not allowed to stay more than your approved time, since this is not a visa for tourism or business. If you want to engage in tourism or business activities in the US, you will have to get the B1 or B2 visas.
Do I Need a Visa to Transit Through USA?
You will be exempt from the US transit visa requirements only in the following cases:
- You are a national of one of the 40 countries under the US Visa Waiver Program.
- You hold another type of a US visa, which is still valid.
Eligibility Criteria for Transit Visa USA
To be eligible for a apply Transit Visa to USA, you must fulfill one of the criteria:
- Be a general non-US citizen on their way to a final destination and only passing through the US.
- Be a non-US citizen or UN official going to the UN headquarters in New York City.
- Be a foreign government official transiting through the US to their final destination on a work-related trip.
If you do not belong to one of these categories, you cannot get a C transit visa.
What Are the Types of Transit Visa for USA?
Here are the types of visas that you might apply for if you want to transit through the United States:
C1 Visa – General Transit Visa
C1 visa is the transit visa for non-US citizens passing through the US on a layover on their way to their final destination.
C2 Visa – U.N Headquarters Transit Visa
C2 visa is the transit visa for non-US citizens traveling to the United Nations (U.N) Headquarters in New York City or United Nations officials transiting through the US 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 US.
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 US embassy.
C3 Visa – Foreign Government Transit Visa
C3 visa is the transit visa for foreign government officials traveling through the US on a layover on their way to their final destination. The purpose of the travel must be for governmental or work-related activities.
US Transit Visa Application
You need to follow these steps to submit a full application for a US transit visa:
- File form DS-160.
- Pay the US Transit visa application fee.
- Schedule your interview.
- Submit the required documents for US Transit Visas.
- Attend your Transit visa interview.
File 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.
You can fill the DS-160 form online through:
- the Consular Electronic Application Center, or
- by using the services of a third party company such as VisaExpress.
Pay the US Transit visa application fee
The application fee for the US Transit 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 US transit visa.
Schedule your interview
The next step is to schedule your interview. Try to schedule your visa interview as soon as possible. US 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 for US Transit Visas
You need to prepare a file of documents to have with you when you go for the US Transit 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.
To apply for the US transit visas you should submit the following documents:
- Completed DS-160 application form. You can complete the form by yourself or with the help of VisaExpress.
- Your passport which has at least one blank page to be able to affix visa. It should be valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay in the United States, unless you are a national of these countries. Then you will only need a passport that is valid during your period of stay in the United States.
- One photograph. It should be in accordance with the requirements set by the US authorities.
- Proof of paid transit visa fee.
- Social media details. A list of the social media that you use, and the name
of your account in each, phone number, email and social media history of the five previous years.
- 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 US. 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 US, you need to submit a letter explaining the offense, the reasons for the arrest, and proof on whether you were convicted or not.
Attend your Transit 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 United States Transit Visa.
If you have been granted the visa, you will be able to transit through the US successfully to your next or final destination.
US Transit Visa Processing Time
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 USA transit visa. This is only an average time estimate, though, so if it takes longer, do not assume that your visa has been denied.
Processing times for any US visa depend on the workload that the US Embassy from which you are applying has. If there are more applications, it will take longer. However, since the American Transit Visa is for such a short duration of time, its processing time is faster than for other visas.
Since you only need the C1 visa at the US airport, you can give the information of what airport you will be in and on what date. If you submit a request and it is granted, the US Embassy could send the documents to that airport with the visa, and it will be waiting for you when you transit through the US.
What Are the Restrictions of the C1 Visa?
Since the US transit visa is different from other non-immigrant visas in the sense that you are not allowed to stay in the US, there are several restrictions to what you can do while in the US. With a USA C1 visa you are not allowed to do the following:
- Stay in the US more than the designated time.
- Travel or study in the US.
- Become employed in the US.
- Extend the C1 visa.
- Adjust or change the status of the C1 visa.
- Apply for a Green Card with a C1 visa.
- Have dependents with only one transit visa.
- Dependents cannot travel, work, or study in the US.
How Long Can I Stay in the US With a Transit Visa?
Since transiting does not take too much time, the validity of the C visa is short too. All types of American transit visas (C1 visa, C2 visa, or C3 visa), are valid for a period of a maximum of 29 days or until the date to depart the US is on your ticket, whichever one is sooner.
This means that if you enter the US 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 US on September 20th.
Can I Bring My Dependents With a Transit Visa?
There are no dependent visas for the C1 visa. This means that all those transiting to the US, including spouses and children must have a transit visa.
For example, if a foreign government official is transiting through the US with family, the family members must have individual C visas too.