The US Department of State provides temporary visas for those who will not be staying in the United States for extended periods, but are merely stopping over on their way to another foreign destination. This kind of visa is known as a C visa and is available to an alien in “immediate and continuous transit through the U.S.” A C visa is generally valid for no more than 29 days. There are three types of C visas:
C-1: Alien in transit through the United States
C-2: UN Transits
C-3: Foreign Government Transits
A C visa holder may not change status to another type of nonimmigrant visa. However, they may adjust their status to that of permanent resident. Aliens in the C category who wish to go through AOS should note that issues with preconceived intent could arise.
In order to qualify for a C Transit Visa, applicants must:
- Intend to pass in immediate and continuous transit through the United States;
- Possess a common carrier ticket or other evidence of transportation arrangements to their destination;
- Have sufficient funds to carry out the purpose of their transit journey; and
- Have permission to enter another country upon departure from the United States.
The Department of State lists the following scenarios that would require an alien to obtain a transit visa:
- If the traveler is a passenger embarking at a foreign port on a cruise ship or other vessel which is traveling to a foreign destination other than the U.S., and during the course of that journey the vessel makes port in the U.S. with no intention of landing in the U.S., a transit visa or other nonimmigrant visa is required.
- If the traveler is a crewperson traveling to the U.S. as a passenger to join a ship or aircraft.
- A foreign traveler proceeding in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. to or from the United Nations Headquarters District, under provisions of the Headquarters agreement with the UN, would require a diplomatic transit (C-2) visa and have certain restrictions on travel within the U.S.
In order to avoid confusion, here are some scenarios similar to the aforementioned C transit scenarios where another type of visa would be required:
- If the traveler seeks layover privileges for purposes other than for transit through the U.S., such as to visit friends or for sightseeing, the applicant will have to qualify for the type of visa required for that purpose, such as a B-2 visa.
- A coasting officer seeking to enter the U.S. generally requires a visitor (B-1) visa. Coasting officers are employed when an officer of a foreign ship is granted home leave while the vessel is in U.S. ports. A replacement or coasting officer will temporarily substitute for an officer on leave during the period the vessel is in and out of various U.S. ports, provided the vessel does not remain in U.S. waters for more than 29 days and the original officer returns in time to depart with the vessel.
- Crew members of a private yacht sailing out of a foreign port which will be cruising in U.S. waters for more than 29 days generally require a B-1 visa.
- Officers and employees of designated international organizations who are assigned to the U.S. may pass in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. on an International Organization (G-4) visa and do not require a transit visa.
- Crew members serving on board a sea vessel or air craft that will be docking or landing in the United States will need to obtain a D Visa.
(Updated 10/11/2012 by AG)
For more information on C Transit Visas, please refer to the following topics: