Do you want to pass through the United States en route to another destination? Find out what type of visa you need


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Imagine you are traveling to Canada from Europe. But you couldn’t find a direct flight. So you decide to jump on a plane to the United States, and from there you join a Canadian flight.

When you do this, you are said to have traveled in transit.

For you as a traveler, this may not seem so important. After all, you will only spend a few hours (max) in the intermediate country before leaving.

However, for the immigration systems of many countries, this is a really big deal.

Let’s take the United States as a case study.

When you stopover in the United States, you can only stay on the airport grounds until your next flight arrives. And even that requires you to obtain a certain type of visa called a “transit visa”.

If you want to walk outside the airport walls and do some sightseeing, you will need to apply for another type of visa. This can be an ESTA USA visa.

With a transit visa like ESTA USA, a traveler can move around the country as they wish and can even stay overnight in one of the country’s hotels.

Transiting through the United States: how does it work?

Now, let’s discuss each of the different possibilities that can occur.

Transit without stopping

Not all travelers passing through the United States are interested in tourism. It is possible that a traveler wants to move as soon as possible. Maybe because they’re in a hurry, they have a place to go, or they just don’t care about the attractions of the United States.

In this case, such a traveler will only have to apply for a transit visa (C). This type of visa allows them to land at the US border for a few minutes, or even hours, at most. With a Transit (C) visa, a traveler is expected to leave the United States almost immediately upon landing. There’s no place to hang out or anything.

Finally, a transit (C) visa helps you continue your air travel at U.S. border points.

In transit but stopping

Some travelers may try to sneak into the United States under the guise of laying over and waiting for their flight. To prevent this from happening, the United States Customs Department requires that every stopover traveler who wishes to stay a little behind obtain another type of visa.

In other words, if you want to spend the night, see a friend, or visit places while waiting for your next flight, you need to get another type of visa.

Often you can use a type (B) visa for this purpose. However, if you are a citizen of a country participating in the US Visa Waiver Program, you may qualify for a faster method of entry – the ESTA USA visa.

What is an ESTA USA visa?

Above all, ESTA is not a visa program like the others. Rather, it is an entry permit or “dispensation”. In fact, calling it a visa-free program would be the correct description.

It is designed for citizens of some 40 countries to enter the United States for 90 consecutive days during a two-year validity period.

Basically, an ESTA application allows a traveler to stop and spend time in the United States before continuing their journey. If you dreamed of visiting many places in the United States before, the ESTA application suddenly opens the door for you.

How to obtain an ESTA USA authorization?

The process of obtaining an ESTA USA authorization is quite simple. You apply online by entering your details on the ESTA website.

Usually, you can receive an approval notification almost instantly after applying. But in some cases, it may take up to 72 hours to know the status of your ESTA application. In the meantime, you can do an ESTA status check every day to see if your application has been accepted.

When should I apply for ESTA?

Since the ESTA online visa can take up to three days to be approved, it is advisable to submit your ESTA application at least 72 hours before departure from your home country.

This way, you would have known the status of your application. And if you are refused, you would know how to adjust your travel plans.

Does ESTA have other use cases?

You bet yes.

As a Visa Waiver Program (VWP), ESTA is not just designed for people transiting through the United States. In fact, that is not its primary goal.

ESTA was developed to help US VWP citizens enter the United States quickly and easily. Specifically, business owners and tourists.

The fact that travelers in transit can use it is just an added bonus.

Is the ESTA application the only way for travelers in transit to spend time in the United States?

No. As mentioned earlier, travelers in transit can use the type (B) visa to stay in the United States for a certain period of time. At least, for a few hours. They can even sleep.

However, if a traveler wishes to stay for several days rather than a few hours, their best bet is ESTA USA.

With a 90-day visit allowance, travelers have plenty of time to visit places, friends, and live out their dreams.

Do children also need ESTA?

Yes, they do. If your children are transiting with you through the United States, you must also submit an ESTA application for them.

The US government runs its immigration programs on a headcount basis. The authorities issue ESTA authorizations regardless of age to account for each person entering the country. As such, being a baby, toddler, or young child doesn’t really matter.

Will I be qualified for ESTA?

It is important to know if you are qualified for an ESTA USA. Because not knowing could ruin all your travel plans.

Check the criteria below to see if you have what it takes to submit an ESTA application.

  • Must have a valid passport embedded in the IC chip.
  • Must travel to the United States for tourism, transit, or business purposes only.
  • Book round-trip air tickets indicating your intention to depart no later than 90 consecutive days.
  • Must be a citizen of one of the countries listed below:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco , Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino. Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and United Kingdom.

What is the difference between transfer, transit and stopover?

To avoid mixing everything up, here is the difference between each.

Stopover: A stopover is when you stay in the United States for one day, two days, or more before traveling to your final destination. Usually people stop over for a number of reasons. This may be due to a flight delay, bad weather, a socio-economic/security factor or a personal decision of the traveler.

Transit: A flight is said to be in transit if it stops briefly at an intermediate location to pick up food, supplies, or fuel, and then continues its journey to its final destination.

Transfer: Transfer is when a traveler needs to change flights. This may be due to the fact that there are no direct flights between the traveler’s home country and their destination.

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