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Many travelers may think that they do not need to apply for ESTA if they enter the U.S. solely to transit to another country. However, all travelers from foreign countries who enter the U.S. without a visa need to apply for and receive ESTA, even for only transiting or transferring. This is because travelers transiting in the U.S. to other countries are considered to be present in the U.S. no matter how short their stay is. An even more important reason is to prevent suspicious parties traveling via the U.S. to other countries for improper reasons by screening them in advance with ESTA in the U.S., and block them from reaching the next destination. In the past, the United States have had severe damage by terrorist attacks from other countries and a large number of its citizens became victims. The ESTA program is a part of security measures based on the lessons of those tragedies from the past. All foreign travelers landing in the U.S., even for just one or two hours to transfer, are still required to obtain ESTA therefore, please prepare to apply for ESTA in advance.
The standards for application of ESTA remain unchanged even for cases of transit.
ESTA is required regardless of age, so remember to apply for all members of your traveling party transiting in the U.S. Even preschool children and infants are required to have ESTA. Since it may take about three days, or 72 hours, until you receive notice of the screening result after applying for ESTA, apply for it early if you have plans to travel to the U.S. or to transfer in the U.S.
If you have not received ESTA in advance, you may be rejected to enter the U.S. or to board your flight. Particularly when planning to travel as a family or in a group, we recommend checking flight numbers, destinations, and airports where you transit before hand.
Travelers entering the U.S. to transfer do so in three main cases: transit, transfer, and stopover (layover). While these might be familiar terms to frequent international travelers, not many people clearly understand the differences among them. The differences in the meaning of these three terms, and specific points to note, are described below.
|Transit||Transit is used to refer to a stop en route. It refers mainly to a flight landing at an airport along the way to refill fuel and food supplies before departing again for the final destination, in the same aircraft.
In most cases of transit on international flights, the plane remains in the airport for one to two hours, and those cases are either passengers wait inside the aircraft or move to a transit room in the airport. During transit, the aircraft’s interior will be cleaned, so if you leave the aircraft be sure to move any of your belongings stowed around your feet or in the seat pockets into the overhead compartments. Also, be sure to keep your passport and valuables on your person at all times when leaving your seat, even while staying inside the aircraft.
Airport staff will distribute transit cards to passengers when transiting. Although transit takes only a short time, be careful not to lose this card.
|Transfer||Transfer refers to changing flights. It differs from transit mainly with regard to whether or not the passenger takes the same aircraft to the final destination. Although in many cases the word “transit” is used to refer to the act of transferring flights as well, strictly speaking these two terms have different meanings.
Depending on factors of the transit time period and the airport’s structure, you may need to move inside the airport or change terminals during the transfer. Also, in some cases you may need to have a new boarding pass issued at the airport or where you transfer.
Ascertain information on transfer or transit in advance, and check thoroughly the airline when you receive your boarding pass at the time of departure.
|Stopover (layover)||Stopover refers mainly to a stay of 24 hours or longer en route to the destination. Although it is said that “stopover” is British English and “layover” is American English, the term “stopover” is used in the U.S. too.
Although stopover also may be used to refer to a stay of less than 24 hours or a stay that involves a change of dates from one day to the next, normally it refers to a stay of 24 hours or longer.
Here are the types of “Transit Visas” that you might apply for if you want to transit through the U.S. on the way to the final destination. Among those, C-1 visa is the most common visa to be applied in general.
C-1 visa is the transit visa for non-U.S. citizens passing through the U.S. on a layover on their way to their final destination.
C-2 visa is the transit visa for non-U.S. citizens traveling to the United Nations (U.N.) Headquarters in New York City or United Nations officials transiting through the U.S. to go to a final destination.
You can apply for the C-2 visa only when a request or petition by the U.N. or other foreign missions has been submitted to the nearest U.S. Embassy.
C-3 visa is the transit visa for foreign government officials traveling through the U.S. on a layover on their way to their final destination only. The purpose of the travel must be for governmental or work-related activities.
Follow these steps to submit a full application for a U.S. transit visa：
Submission of form “DS-160” is required for transit visa application to check eligibility. “DS-160” is an online application form and subjected to all those who apply for non-immigrant visa at U.S. Embassy/Consulate General.
Including infants and pre-school children are required for “DS-160”, therefore parent(s) or representative of the family must apply for all members if planning for long stay in the U.S. as a family.
After “DS-160” is filed, make payment of $160 online as a transit visa application fee. Make sure to print out the receipt shown on the screen and save it since you will need it later. Visa issuance fees are for C-1 visa (General transit visa), C-3 visa (Foreign government transit visa), but C-2 visa (U.N. headquarters transit visa) is not included. There might be other fees depending on your location and the Embassy you are applying form.
Schedule your interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General after completing the payment. There might be no interviews at the Embassy depending on location and country you are applying form, therefore contact them in advance.
Following documents are required to submit when applying for U.S. transit visas:
* If you have been arrested before in the U.S, you need to submit a letter explaining the offense, the reasons for the arrest, and proof on whether you were convicted or not.
Attend your visa interview with consular officer at Embassy/Consulate General at the scheduled time. You may want to arrive there at least one hour prior to the interview since required documents will be checked at the counter. Followings are mandatory for the interview with consular, however additional information may be asked depending on the variety of visa and purpose of your visit to the U.S.
Visa application would not be granted if you do not disclose specified information or give false statement during the interview.
After the interview with consular officer, expect to wait a week to receive a response on your visa status. Embassy/Consulate General carefully examine if those submitted documents and purposes of their visits are fine. Before receiving the response, any information regards to whether you have been granted or denied the U.S. transit visa are not available, therefore, wait for the notification from the Embassy/Consulate General.
Those who have criminal record or overstayed (Illegal stay) in the past should expect to take longer time to hear the response. If there are any additional documents requested by Embassy/Consulate General, submit quickly for smooth response.
Travelers who meet all four of the following conditions may transit/transfer/stopover in the U.S. with ESTA without applying for a visa:
|①||They must have a valid passport with an IC chip|
|②||They must have roundtrip air or sea tickets to their destination, or onward tickets to a third country|
|③||They must not stay in the U.S. for longer than 90 days after arrival|
|④||They must be traveling to the U.S. for purposes of sightseeing, short-term business trip, or transit*|
* This refers to transit, transfer, or stopover to a third country.
Travelers must apply for and receive ESTA even when transiting in the U.S. to a third country without a visa.
You must apply for ESTA in any of the following cases: transit, transfer, or stopover (layover).
Please understand that ESTA application is required for all travelers traveling via the U.S., both adults and children, regardless of age, gender, nationality, occupation, etc. This is necessary for purposes of the travelers’ own safety as well as U.S. national security.
Also, if it appears that you will not have much time for transit or transfer, consult with your airline or tour agency on steps such as changing your flights. Since a long trip inevitably will involve a long time in flight, such trips are more likely to involve transit or transfer en route to the destination. Try to plan a trip that will not put to much pressure on your health or your schedule.
UPDATE : 2022/04/24