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

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

Apr 26th, 2009, 08:35 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 744
Do foreigners REALLY need a visa to transit a U.S. airport?!

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.).


mp413 is offline  
Apr 26th, 2009, 09:31 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Correct. There is no sterile transit in the US. So, your BF will need to get some type of US visa.

From the major airports in Canada, he will go through US immigration/customs before boarding the plane.
rkkwan is offline  
Apr 26th, 2009, 01:01 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 3,877
The United States ended visa-free transits in 2003. The State Department's webpage describes the procedure for obtaining a transit visa:


I also saw that the sugegsted time at the Toronto consulate is 42 days. Does that fit within his timeframe?

I take it he could get to Asia through Vancouver, with a connection to Bangkok. Those are probably the tickets that cost more?
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Apr 27th, 2009, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,196
Be aware that many countries require visas for visa nationals even if just transitting.

Citizens of almost all sub-Saharan African countries require visas to transit almost all European countries, for example - even though they don't go through immigration. Any eastbound route from North America to Thailand (eg via London or Frankfurt) will probably require a similar visa to the one required by the US - and one that will involve similar (though possibly faster) bureaucracy.

Whether this applies to the countries on westbound routes to Thailand (like HK or Japan) I don't know. But you should double check before assuming it won't.
flanneruk is online now  
Apr 27th, 2009, 07:03 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Even Hong Kong requires visa for air-side transit for certain nationalities, including many African ones:


It's those in the table with "^" or "*" that follows the word "Visa Required" and has a blue link to them.
rkkwan is offline  
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