Ask the Consul
What type of visa do I need to transit the United States while traveling to another foreign country?
April 2, 2012
Before the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, travelers from abroad who were transiting the United States en route to another foreign destination were able to transfer planes in the United States without a visa if their onward flight left within a few hours. This was called transiting without a visa. Often, there was a transit lounge where travelers could wait before their next flight.
After September 11th, the Department of Homeland Security decided that all travelers entering the United States, even those transiting, needed to undergo the same security checks as a person intending to visit the United States. For those of you who have transited through Miami airport in the last few years, you may have noticed that once you pass through immigration and customs you are on the street, at the passenger pick-up area. There is no such thing as a transit lounge anymore and those in transit enter the United States.
If you have been requested to obtain a transit visa, or if an immigration officer on a prior visit has suggested that you obtain a transit visa, you may apply for a transit visa through the same application process you use to apply for any other visa – and you will be subject to the same requirements. If you wish to travel to a third country through the United States because the flight is less expensive, remember that you need a transit visa.
To qualify for a transit visa you must:
- Intend to pass in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S.
- Possess a common carrier ticket or other evidence of transportation arrangements to your destination.
- Have sufficient funds to carry out the purpose of the transit journey.
- Have permission (visa) to enter another country upon departure from the U.S.
Since the standards for a transit visa are similar to those for a B1/B2 business/tourist visa, we try and issue a tourist visa instead of a transit visa whenever possible.