A visa is an official document provided by the country you want to visit. It grants you temporary permission to enter the country for a specific amount of time. They are not to be confused with passports, which are legal documents issued by governments that prove your identity and citizenship.

What is a Transit Visa?

Some travelers make an international stop over on their final destination to another country. If those travelers wish to tour the city or country during their stop-over at another airport, they can obtain a transit visa. A transit visa (also known as a C visa) is a temporary short period visa that is issued at the stop-over airport, allowing the traveler to explore the country during their layover.

For example, let’s say you’re a Japanese citizen traveling to Canada, and you stop over in the United States en route to Canada. In that case, you may need to secure a transit visa for the stop over in the United States.

When Do I Need to Secure a Transit Visa?

Some countries require that your stop over be a minimum of 24 hours to be granted a transit visa, whereas other countries (such as Singapore) provides a transit visa for a stop over that’s as short as four hours. Transit visas may also be required in some countries even if you have no intention of leaving the airport.

What is a “Direct Transit Area”?

Transit visas are typically valid only for a short amount of time (1-10 days). If the person does not obtain a transit visa, the person is required to stay in what’s known as the “Direct Transit Area.” It is the special area established in connection with an international airport, approved by public authorities and under supervision, for accommodating these individuals who do not have transit visas but have layovers in other countries before their final destination.

Are There Requirements for Obtaining a Transit Visa?

Yes, although the exact requirements depend on the person’s country of origin, travel destination, and location of her layover. If the traveler’s stop is in the United States, the traveler must meet the following requirements:

  • The person intends to pass in continuous and immediate transit through the United States;
  • Possesses an airplane ticket or other evidence of transportation that will lead them to their destination country;
  • Has enough funds to complete the journey, including the stop-over; and
  • Has authorization to enter the destination country after he or she exits the United States.

In addition, the person must typically also participate in an interview at an embassy or consulate office when applying for travel documents.

What are the Restrictions for a Transit Visa?

Restrictions associated with a transit visa depend on the location of the stop over. For those who require a transit visa for the United States, there are a couple of restrictions:

  1. Each person in the family, no matter how old, needs to apply for a separate transit visa. There is no such thing as dependent visas; 
  2. You cannot extend the stay beyond what is permitted on the transit visa;
  3. You can’t work or study while on a transit visa, as a different visa is required;
  4. The transit visa is strictly single-entry. In that regard, if you leave the United States and want to reenter the U.S., you would need to reapply for a transit visa; and
  5. You cannot apply for a green card while using a transit visa.

What Happens if I Don’t Travel with a Transit Visa?

It is your responsibility to obtain proper paperwork for your stop over. Failing to obtain a transit visa when required to do so may result in you being denied the ability to board your flight.

Do I Need an Attorney for Assistance with a Transit Visa?

Transit visas are an important document when it comes to international travel.  If you or your loved ones need help securing a transit visa, you should hire an immigration lawyer for advice and assistance. Your attorney can help determine what your options are under current immigration laws.

If you believe you have issues involving a violation of transit visa requirements, you should speak with an attorney immediately.  Your attorney can represent you in court if you need to attend a court hearing, and will be able to perform various other legal tasks on your behalf.