A visa is an official document provided by the United States that allows an individual to enter the country for a specific reason and for a specific amount of time. These are not to be confused with passports, which are legal documents issued by the government that proves an individual’s identity and citizenship.

There are numerous types of visas available for different reasons, such as work and travel. An attorney can assist an individual in determining which visa best fits their needs.

If an individual is planning a temporary visit of any kind to the United States, they will most likely be required to apply for a temporary visa. There are numerous types of temporary visas.

Once an individual’s visa is granted, they are permitted to enter the United States for a specific purpose or activity, such as studying or working, until the time limit for that visa expires and they must return to their home country.

There are many nonimmigrant visas that are issued to individuals who visit the United States to travel, for foreign exchange programs, and for employment opportunities that require a special skill that may not be abundant in the United States.

There are nineteen major categories of nonimmigrant or temporary visas and one special purpose category for individuals employed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The main categories of visas are given letter designations.

What is a Transit Visa?

In some cases, a traveler may want to make an international stop on the way to their final destination to another country. If a traveler wishes to tour a city or country during their stop over to another airport, they may obtain a transit visa.

A transit visa is also known as a C visa. It is a temporary short period visa that is issued at the stop-over airport which allows the traveler to explore the country during their layover. A C visa is provided for immediate and continuous transit through the United States on the way to another country and has few exceptions.

Immediate and continuous transit means a reasonably swift departure of the individual in the normal course of travel as permitted. It assumes the individual has a prearranged itinerary without any unreasonable layover privileges.

If an individual is seeking layover privileges for a purpose other than transit through the United States, they may be required to qualify for a different type of visa. For example, if an individual is a Japanese citizen traveling to Canada, and they want to make a stop over in the United States on the way to Canada, they may be required to secure a transit visa for their visit to the United States. If, however, the Japanese citizen wanted to stop and visit friends in the United States, they would have to qualify for the type of visa required for that purpose.

When Do I Need to Secure a Transit Visa?

In some countries, a stop over must be a minimum of 24 hours in order to be granted a transit visa. In other countries, such as Singapore, an individual may obtain a transit visa for a stop over that is as short as 4 hours. A transit visa may also be required in some countries even if the individual has no intention of leaving the airport.

It is important to begin the visa application process well before your intended travel dates. In many cases, there are several steps the individual must go through in order to obtain the visa.

It is also important to note that a transit visa is not guaranteed. An individual should not make their final travel arrangements until they have secured their visa.

What is a Direct Transit Area?

A transit visa is typically valid for a short period of time, between one and ten days. If the individual does not obtain a transit visa, they are required to remain in the direct transit area.

This area is a special area established in connection with an international airport and is approved by public authorities and under supervision. This area accommodates those individuals who do not have transit visas but have layovers in other countries prior to their final destinations.

Are There Requirements for Obtaining a Transit Visa?

There are requirements for obtaining a transit visa. The specific requirements depend on the individual’s country of origin, travel destination, and location of their layover. If the individual’s layover is in the United State, they must meet the following requirements:

  • The individual intends to pass in continuous and immediate transit through the United States;
  • The individual possesses an airplane ticket or other evidence of transportation that will lead them to their destination country;
  • The traveler has enough funds to complete their journey, including the stop-over; and
  • The traveler has authorization to enter the destination country after they exit the United States.

Additionally, the individual must usually participate in an interview when applying for travel documents. These occur at an embassy or consulate.

What are the Restrictions for a Transit Visa?

The restrictions for transit visas depend on the location of the stop over. For travelers who require a transit visa for the United States, there are several restrictions, including:

  • Each individual in the family, no matter how old, is required to apply for a separate transit visa. There are no such thing as dependent visas;
  • An individual cannot extend the stay beyond what is permitted on the transit visa;
  • An individual cannot work or study while on a transit visa, as a different visa is required;
  • A transit visa is strictly single-entry. In that regard, if an individual leaves the United States and wants to reenter the U.S., they would need to reapply for a transit visa; and
  • An individual cannot apply for a green card while using a transit visa.

It is important to note that unless it has been cancelled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. A valid visa in an expired passport is still valid and should not be removed from the expired passport.

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

It is the responsibility of the traveler to obtain proper paperwork for their stop over. Failure to obtain a transit visa when required may result in an individual being denied the ability to board their flight.

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

It is essential to have the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer for any visa issues you may have. A transit visa is a very important document for international travel. If you or your loved one needs assistance securing a visa, an attorney can provide advice on the process and assist you every stop of the way. Your attorney can also advise you on what the options are under the current immigration laws.

If you encounter any issues involving a violation of a transit visa requirement, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Your attorney can advise you of your rights and represent you if you are required to attend a court hearing. Having issues in a country you are not familiar with can be a stressful experience, so it is important to have an attorney protecting your rights.