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