There is no one answer fits all when it comes to whether you would need a US transit visa as a Canadian permanent residence holder who is transiting through the United States. If you are a permanent resident of Canada you may need to obtain a transit visa to enter the US. It is a good idea to apply well ahead of the time you plan to travel.

What is a United States Transit Visa?

The United States Transit Visa is a permit a traveler needs to enter the US and stay for a stopover while on transit. You are required to fly (travel) with your planned flight or ship when they are ready to leave for your next destination.

The government of the United States via their immigration offices issues C1 visas for immediate and continuous transit through the country. Immediate and continuous transit means that your itinerary to your final destination includes a layover in the United States and you will have to stop there, but you are not entitled to other privileges.

With a United States Transit Visa, you are not allowed to stay more than your approved time, since this is not a visa for tourism or business. If you want to engage in tourism or business activities in the US, you will have to get a B1 or B2 visa.

As a Canadian Permanent Residence Card Holder Would You Require a Visa to Transit Through the USA?

Please note that you will be exempt from the US transit visa requirements if you fit into the following category of people:

  • You are a national of one of the 40 countries under the US Visa Waiver Program.
  • You hold another type of a US visa, which is still valid.

Who is Eligible for United States Transit Visa?

Please note that to be eligible for United States Transit Visa, you must fulfill one of the criteria:

  • Be a general non-US citizen on their way to a final destination and only passing through the US.
  • Be a non-US citizen or UN official going to the UN headquarters in New York City.
  • Be a foreign government official transiting through the US to their final destination on a work-related trip.

Please note that if the above does not apply to you, then you cannot get a C transit visa from the United States.

What Are the Types of Transit Visas for the USA?

Please note that there are different types of United States transit visas that you might apply for if you want to transit through the United States and they are:

C1 Visa – General Transit Visa

C1 visa is the transit visa for non-US citizens passing through the US on a layover on their way to their final destination.

C2 Visa – U.N Headquarters Transit Visa

C2 visa is the transit visa for non-US citizens traveling to the United Nations (U.N) Headquarters in New York City or United Nations officials transiting through the US to go to a final destination. Those who have this visa are only allowed to be in the vicinity of the U.N headquarters. They are allowed to leave the U.N headquarters or a location in its vicinity only when they depart the US.

Please note that you can apply for the C-2 visa only when a request or petition by the U.N or other foreign missions or organizations has been submitted to the nearest US embassy.

C3 Visa – Foreign Government Transit Visa

A C3 visa is the transit visa for foreign government officials traveling through the US on a layover on their way to their final destination. The purpose of the travel must be for governmental or work-related activities.

What Are the Restrictions of the C1 Visa?

Since the US transit visa is different from other nonimmigrant visas in the sense that you are not allowed to stay in the US, there are several restrictions on what you can do while in the US.

With a USA C1 visa you are not allowed to do the following:

  • Stay in the US more than the designated time.
  • Travel or study in the US.
  • Become employed in the US.
  • Extend the C1 visa.
  • Adjust or change the status of the C1 visa.
  • Apply for a Green Card with a C1 visa.
  • Have dependents with only one transit visa.
  • Dependents cannot travel, work, or study in the US.

How Long Can I Stay in the US With a Transit Visa?

Since transiting does not take too much time, the validity of the C visa is short too. All types of American transit visas (C1 visa, C2 visa, or C3 visa), are valid for a maximum of 29 days or until the date on your ticket to depart the US, whichever one is sooner.

This means that if you enter the US on September 1st, you must leave on or before September 29th. However, if you have a ticket to your final destination on September 20th, you must leave the US on September 20th.

Can I Bring My Dependents with a Transit Visa?

Please note that there are no dependent visas for the C1 visa hence all those transiting to the United States with you, including spouses and children, must have a transit visa.

How to Apply for The United States Transit Visa

If you just discovered that you would need a transit visa as a Canadian permanent resident and you want to transit through the United States, then you need to follow these steps to submit a full application for the visa:

  • File form DS-160.
  • Pay the US Transit visa application fee.
  • Schedule your interview.
  • Submit the required documents.
  • Attend your Transit visa interview.
  • File form DS-160

It is important to note that the DS-160 form is the first step to applying. Fill in the necessary fields and then submit the form online. You will get a barcode number and confirmation page, which you will need later for your documents file.

Please note that you can fill the DS-160 form online through:

  • The Consular Electronic Application Center, or
  • By using the services of a third-party traveling agency such as VisaExpress.

Pay The US Transit Visa Application Fee

Please note that the application fee for the US Transit Visas is $160 and you are required to pay this amount and save the receipt since you will need it later. There might be other fees depending on your location and the Embassy you are applying from.

Interestingly, there are no visa issuance fees for the C-2 visa. This is because reciprocity measures have not been put in place for this type of US transit visa.

Schedule Your Interview

The next step you are expected to take after paying your transit visa fee is to schedule your interview. Try to schedule your visa interview as soon as possible. US Embassies have a high workload, so it might take them a while to schedule your interview. The earlier it is, the better it is for your travel arrangements. When you schedule your interview, you will get an interview confirmation letter which you need later.

Submit the Required Documents 

You need to prepare some documents when you go for the US Transit visa interview. It is best to attach all documents and even ones you may not necessarily need. If your file is missing any documents, the Embassy can delay or even deny your visa.

List of Documents Required for a United States Transit Visa

  • Completed DS-160 application form. You can complete the form by yourself
  • Your passport which has at least one blank page to be able to affix a visa. It should be valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay in the United States unless you are a national of these countries. Then you will only need a passport that is valid during your period of stay in the United States.
  • One photograph. It should be by the requirements set by the US authorities.
  • Proof of paid transit visa fee.
  • Social media details. A list of the social media that you use, the name of your account in each, phone number, email, and social media history of the five previous years.
  • Proof that you are allowed to enter the country of your final destination.
  • Ticket or itinerary to your final destination.
  • A letter that states the purpose of your visit to your final destination.
  • Proof that you are financially able to cover your expenses during your transit.
  • Evidence that you will return to your home or another country after your stay in the US. This could be a property deed, apartment lease, or other proof.
  • If you are HIV positive, you will need a letter from your doctor explaining your medical state and the risks associated with your condition, as well as proof of medical health insurance.
  • If you have been arrested before in the US, you need to submit a letter explaining the offense, the reasons for the arrest, and proof of whether you were convicted or not.

Attend Your Transit Visa Interview

With your document file, you should attend the visa interview at the scheduled time. If your interview is successful, you will have a higher chance of getting a United States Transit Visa. If you have been granted the visa, you will be able to transit through the United States successfully to your next or final destination.

Please note that in order to increase your chances of having a successful United States Transit Visa application you can use the services of third-party visa consultants.

The United States Transit Visa Processing Time

Please note that from the day you submit your application, you are expected to wait for a minimum of 5 working days to receive a response on your visa status. The Embassy will let you know whether you have been granted or denied the USA transit visa. This is only an average time estimate, though, so if it takes longer, do not assume that your visa has been denied.

It is important to note that the processing times for any US visa depend on the workload that the US Embassy from which you are applying has. If there are more applications, it will take longer. However, since the American Transit Visa is for such a short duration of time, its processing time is faster than for other visas.

Since you only need the C1 visa at the US airport, you can give the information of what airport you will be in and on what date. If you submit a request and it is granted, the US Embassy could send the documents to that airport with the visa, and it will be waiting for you when you transit through the US.