Transit in the U.S.- Is ESTA (visa) required?

20 Aug 14:06

ESTA is required for transit in the U.S.

Those without a visa are needed to get an ESTA when entering the United States, and it is also necessary when transiting/transferring through the nation. ESTA online pre-immigration check is initiated by filling out relevant trip information and applying to U.S. CBP (U.S. Customers and Border Protection). When traveling within the United States for a few hours and without leaving the airport or specific regions, an immigration officer’s inspection is not necessary. However, even for a brief transit, you must apply for an ESTA because it is deemed “entry into the United States.” An ESTA immigration check also plays a vital role in preventing suspicious individuals from going to other nations via the United States. In the past, terrorist acts from other nations caused significant damage to the United States, and tragedy claimed a high number of lives. Based on the lessons learned from previous catastrophes, the United States government developed ESTA as part of security measures to strengthen immigration. All international visitors transiting through the United States must apply for an ESTA as well as a visa/permit to remain at their ultimate destination in advance.

Remember to apply for ESTA for accompanying preschool children and infants too

Even in transit circumstances, the ESTA application rules remain constant.
ESTA is necessary regardless of age, so make sure to apply for all members of your traveling group who will be transiting in the United States. Even preschool children and babies must have an ESTA. Because it may take three days, or 72 hours, to get notification of the screening result after applying for ESTA, apply early if you plan to travel to or transfer in the United States.
If you do not have an ESTA, you may be denied entry into the United States or from boarding your aircraft. We recommend verifying aircraft numbers, destinations, and airports where you will transit ahead of time, especially if you are traveling as a family or in a group.


Do You Have U.S. ESTA VISA Travel Authorization? If You Have ESTA Application, Check if it is Still Valid!

Differences between transit, transfer, and stopover (layover)

Travelers who enter the United States to transfer do so in three ways: transit, transfer, and stopover (layover). While these terminology may be familiar to frequent foreign travelers, few individuals comprehend the differences between them. The distinctions in meaning of these three words, as well as particular factors to consider, are discussed below.

Transit The term “transit” refers to a pause along the way. It mostly refers to a flight landing at an airport along the route to refuel and refuel before continuing on to the ultimate destination in the same aircraft.
In most situations of international flight transit, the plane remains in the airport for one to two hours, and passengers either wait within the aircraft or go to an airport transit room. The aircraft’s interior will be cleaned during passage, so before you exit, make sure to relocate any goods placed around your feet or in the seat pockets into the overhead bins. Also, keep your passport and valuables on you at all times while leaving your seat, even if you are still inside the plane.
When passing through the airport, travellers will be given transit cards. Although travel is quick, be careful not to misplace this card.
Transfer The term “transfer” refers to changing flights. It varies from transit mostly in whether or not the passenger travels on the same aircraft to their final destination. Although the term “transit” is sometimes used to refer to the act of switching flights, the two concepts have distinct connotations.
You may need to relocate within the airport or change terminals during the transfer, depending on factors such as transit duration and airport structure. In some situations, you may need to obtain a new boarding card at the airport or transfer location.
Determine transfer or transit information ahead of time, and thoroughly verify the airline when you receive your boarding card at the time of departure.
Stopover (layover) A stopover is primarily defined as a stay of 24 hours or more in route to the destination. Although “stopover” is supposed to be British English and “layover” is American English, the phrase “stopover” is also used in the United States.
Although the term “stopover” can also apply to a stay of less than 24 hours or a change of dates from one day to the next, it usually refers to a stay of 24 hours or more.

What Are the Types of Transit Visa for USA?

What Are the Types of Transit visa for U.S.?

Here are the several forms of “Transit Visas” that you might apply for if you wish to transit through the United States on your way to your final destination. Among these, the C-1 visa is the most commonly used in general.

General Transit Visa (C1)
The C-1 visa is a transit visa for non-US nationals who are transiting through the US on their way to their final destination.

C2 Visa – Transit Visa to the United Nations (U.N.) Headquarters
The C-2 visa is a transit visa for non-US nationals coming to the United Nations (U.N.) Headquarters in New York City or for UN personnel transiting through the US on their way to a final destination.
You can apply for the C-2 visa only if the United Nations or other foreign embassies have made a request or petition to the nearest US Embassy.

C3 Visa – Transit Visa for Foreign Governments
The C-3 visa is reserved for foreign government personnel passing through the United States on their way to their final destination. The trip must be for governmental or business-related purposes.

What Are the Types of Transit Visa for USA?

U.S. Transit Visa Application Process

To submit a comprehensive application for a transit visa to the United States, follow these steps:

  1. Fill out the “DS-160” pre-screening form online.
  2. Pay the application cost for a transit visa to the United States.
  3. Plan your interview at the US Embassy/Consulate General.
  4. Before the interview, provide the necessary documentation for US transit visas.
  5. Attend your consular interview for a transit visa at General Consulate/Embassy

Transit Visa Application

1. File pre-screening form “DS-160” online

To assess eligibility for a transit visa, a completed form “DS-160” must be submitted. “DS-160” is an online application form required for all non-immigrant visa applicants at the US Embassy/Consulate General.
Because “DS-160” includes newborns and pre-school children, the parent(s) or representative of the family must apply for all members if the family is intending an extended stay in the United States.

2. Make payment for the U.S. Transit Visa application fee

After submitting the “DS-160,” pay the $160 transit visa application cost online. Remember to print off and keep the receipt displayed on the screen, since you will need it later. Visa issuance fees include C-1 (General transit visa), C-3 (Foreign government transit visa), but not C-2 (U.N. headquarters transit visa). Other costs may apply based on your location and the Embassy to whom you are applying.

3. Schedule your interview at U.S. Embassy/Consulate General

After you have completed the payment, schedule your interview at the US Embassy/Consulate General. Depending on the region and nation from where you are applying, there may be no interviews at the Embassy; thus, contact them in advance.

4. Submit the required documents for U.S. Transit Visas before the interview

When applying for a transit visa to the United States, the following documents must be submitted:

  • Acceptance of the completed DS-160 application form
  • Valid passport (it should be valid for at least 6 months after your anticipated return date from the United States).
  • Digital data from a 6-month-old identity photos (white background, no glasses)
  • Proof of payment of the transit visa application fee
  • Social media information (a list of the social media platforms you use, as well as the name of your account, etc.)
  • Ticket or evidence of entry into the country of your final destination
  • Visit to your end destination details (Main reason of the visit, lodging location, etc.)
  • Evidence that you are financially capable of covering your expenditures
  • Evidence showing you intend to return to your home country or another nation following your stay in the United States.
  • A doctor’s health certificate outlining your physical condition, as well as confirmation of no communicable infection or infection disease designated by the US government
  • Medical health insurance proof (insurance card)

* If you have previously been arrested in the United States, you must send a letter detailing the offense, the grounds for the arrest, and documentation of whether or not you were convicted.

5. Attend your Transit Visa interview at Embassy/Consulate General

Attend your planned visa interview with a consular official at the Embassy/Consulate General. Because essential documents will be examined at the counter, you should arrive at least one hour before the interview. The following information is required for the consular interview; however, extra information may be requested depending on the kind of visa and the purpose of your journey to the United States.

  • In your mother tongue, write your whole name.
  • Education following elementary school
  • Address where you want your visa mailed
  • Names and dates of birth of your parents (even if your parents are deceased)
  • Monthly income (A person who is solely subjected)
  • In the past, a visa number and date were granted.
  • Name of the individual if the necessary documents are prepared by an agent/representative

If you fail to provide required facts or make false statements during the interview, your visa application will be denied.


Do You Have U.S. ESTA VISA Travel Authorization? If You Have ESTA Application, Check if it is Still Valid!

How long does it take to get Transit Visa in the U.S.?

U.S. Transit Visa Processing Time

Expect to wait a week for a response on your visa status after the interview with the consular official. The Embassy/Consulate General carefully examines the provided documentation and the reason of their visits. Any information on whether you have been granted or denied a U.S. transit visa is not available prior to receiving the response; therefore, wait for notice from the Embassy/Consulate General.
Those with a criminal record or who have already overstayed (illegally) might expect a lengthier response time. If the Embassy/Consulate General requests more papers, provide them as soon as possible to ensure a seamless response.

Four conditions of applying for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program with ESTA

Travelers who match all four of the following criteria may use ESTA to transit/transfer/stopover in the United States without asking for a visa:

  1. They must have a valid passport that has an IC chip.
  2. They must have round-trip air or boat tickets or onward tickets to a third country to their destination.
  3. They must not stay in the United States for more than 90 days after arriving.
  4. They must be visiting the United States for the purpose of sightseeing, a short-term business trip, or transit*.

* A transit, transfer, or stopover in a foreign nation.

Countries eligible for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program by ESTA

As of 2022, only nationals of the following countries were eligible for the ESTA U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

  1. Japan
  2. Spain
  3. France
  4. Andorra
  5. Belgium
  6. Denmark
  7. San Marino
  8. Iceland
  9. Sweden
  10. U.K.
  11. Italy
  12. Netherlands
  13. Australia
  14. Singapore
  15. Austria
  16. Brunei
  17. Portugal
  18. Chile
  19. Estonia
  20. Finland
  21. Slovakia
  22. Germany
  23. Slovenia
  24. Greece
  25. Hungary
  26. Latvia
  27. Lichtenstein
  28. Lithuania
  29. Czech Republic
  30. Luxembourg
  31. Malta
  32. Monaco
  33. New Zealand
  34. Norway
  35. South Korea
  36. Taiwan
  37. Switzerland
  38. Ireland
  39. Poland

(Listed in no particular order)

ESTA is required in all cases of entering the U.S.

Even if traveling to a third nation without a visa, travelers must apply for and acquire an ESTA.
You must apply for an ESTA if you are in transit, transferring, or stopping over (layover).
Please keep in mind that an ESTA application is necessary for all individuals and children traveling through the United States, regardless of age, gender, nationality, employment, or other factors. This is vital for the safety of the travelers as well as the national security of the United States.
Also, if it looks that you will not have enough time for transit or transfer, check with your airline or tour operator about options such as changing flights. Because a long trip will invariably entail a significant period of flying time, such excursions are more likely to include transit or transfer en route to the destination. Plan a journey that will not put too much strain on your health or schedule.


Do You Have U.S. ESTA VISA Travel Authorization? If You Have ESTA Application, Check if it is Still Valid!