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Do I need a U.S. visa if I have a connecting flight through the U.S.?

By April 6, 2022Immigration
A plane in the sky

International travelers may end up traveling through the United States, even if their ultimate destination is not within the United States. Anyone who plans to travel to the U.S. must have a valid visa, even if it is just a brief layover.

What visa do I need if I am traveling through the U.S.?

If you are traveling through the U.S. while you are en route to another country, you may apply for a C visa. A C visa is a transit visa that is available to applicants who are engaging in immediate and continuous travel through the U.S. while traveling to another country as their ultimate destination. C visas are required in the following travel situations:

  • If you have a flight with a short layover in the U.S. and you do not intend to leave the airport
  • If you are on a cruise ship departing from a foreign port that will make port in the U.S. but will not land in the U.S.
  • If you are a crewmember and are going to the U.S. to meet up with the ship or aircraft you plan to work on. If you are a crewmember, you will also need a D visa. These visas are often issued as a combination C-1/D visa
  • If you are transiting through the U.S. to or from the United Nations Headquarters. This travel requires a C-2 visa (diplomatic transit visa) and the travel is limited to New York City.

Can I use ESTA or a B visa to transit through the U.S.?

Yes. If you already have a valid ESTA or B visa, in many cases you do not need to apply for a C visa. Most travelers will be permitted to transit through the U.S. using ESTA or the B visa.

I have a long layover in the U.S. and would like to visit some friends while waiting for my next flight. Which visa do I need?

If you plan to leave the airport and engage in any tourist activities such as visiting friends, you will need a B visa or ESTA. The C visa would not be sufficient, as it is limited to brief layovers where you are engaging in immediate and continuous travel.

How do I apply for a C visa?

To apply for a C visa, you should submit the DS160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application to a U.S. Consulate, pay the visa fee and prepare supporting documents. Supporting documents for a C-1 visa are generally minimal. You would provide the DS160 confirmation page, visa fee receipt, passport, photo, proof of previously issued visas, information bearing on visa eligibility (prior arrests, medical conditions that could impact eligibility and prior visa denials). You may also need to show sufficient funds to cover your stay in the U.S. and proof of your residence abroad.

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