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Do foreigners REALLY need a visa to transit a U.S. airport?!

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My boyfriend is African, living in Canada, and coming to visit me in Thailand. All the cheapest flights stopover in the U.S., and we were about to buy a ticket today when I started remembering how the first thing you do when you land in the U.S. on an int'l flight is go through customs. I started doing some research and it appears that foreigners (who are not from a visa waiver country = all Africans) can't even transit a U.S. airport for a couple of hours without obtaining a visa in advance (C-1 visa).

Is this true? Is it really as formal a procedure as it sounds (i.e. applying at embassy, getting interviewed, etc.)? It says it takes 42 days on average to get a visa from the U.S. embassy in Toronto...

It's difficult to find reliable information about this so if anyone has had to get this visa and knows how long it takes to process...I would be grateful to hear it. He was supposed to fly in mid-June, now we are wondering whether we'll have to postpone (or shell out $400+ more for a ticket not routed through the U.S.).

thanks!

mp413

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