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Do You Need a Visa for a Connecting Flight in the USA?


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You have a connecting flight with a layover in the USA.

Or you’re about to book a flight with a layover in New York, Houston or Dallas. And now you’re thinking, whether you need a visa when transiting through USA or not. The short answer is that mostly you need something to transit through the USA. In this article we are going talk about the most popular situations.

You can’t just come with your flight ticket and that’s it.

New York Skyscrapers
Skyscrapers in New York

1. Do You Need a Visa for a Connecting Flight in the USA?

No and yes. Mostly you don’t need a U.S. transit visa, but you are required to have an ESTA. Which is basically the same thing? It kinda is.

ESTA is an electronic application / approval. It’s kind of an e-visa, that allows you to travel to the United States. Citizens of many countries don’t require a tourist visa to travel to the U.S., as long as they have an approved ESTA (confirmation).

Most likely you need an ESTA to transit through the USA.

Two top questions about ESTA. 1) Do I need ESTA for connecting flight? 2) Do I need a ESTA for USA or visa? Yes, you need something. If it’s ESTA or C1 transit visa, this depends from your nationality. If you don’t have ESTA, you will be denied boarding.

If you don’t have ESTA, you will be denied boarding. In a situation like this you won’t have a right to care or flight compensation from the airline.

1.1 Connecting Flights, Self-Transfer Flights

In this case, it doesn’t matter how you are traveling.

In the US, every foreigner has to have either ESTA, transit visa or some other visa. You need ESTA or visa for a layover too. Even if it’s a short layover in the US. While with most other countries you don’t need a visa for connecting flights (on airline-protected connecting flights).

In the US, you also have to recheck your baggage. It’s very important to take these things into account, when planning a trip with a flight through the US. If you are traveling with checked baggage through the US, it’s a good idea to have a layover of around 4 hours or more.

1.2 Applying for ESTA Online

It’s easy. It’s affordable. You can do it yourself.

If you need assistance, there are agencies offering that.

It is recommended to apply for ESTA at least a few days before the trip. But if you have forgotten about ESTA, you may apply for it also on the last day before your flight. Most ESTA applications take only a few hours to process. In most cases, you will receive your confirmation after a few hours. But still, it’s not advisable to leave it to the last minute.

Since summer of 2022, ESTA costs 21 USD.

Apply for ESTA on the Official ESTA Application Website.

1.3 ESTA Validity

ESTA is valid for up to two years.

You can go on multiple trips to the US.

2. C1 Visa = U.S. Transit Visa

C1 is the US transit visa.

If you are not eligible for a visa waiver (ESTA), you’ll need to apply for C 1 visa before transiting through the U.S. Keep in mind that for successful transit, C1 visa has to be obtained in advance, and is valid for transit only — you’ll have to show a proof of traveling to some other place.

It’s basically a layover visa for US.

At the same time, you are allowed to leave the airport during a layover with it. Accordingly, you can also change airports, if necessary. The validity of visa is up to 29 days.

Learn more: U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs

Have you been on a connecting flight with a layover in the USA? What was your experience? Did you need an ESTA or US transit visa?

About the author:

Co-founder and Chief Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Kaspars is a digital nomad and travel blogger who’s been traveling the world extensively since 2013. Since 2017, Kaspars has been writing about the less-known aspects of air travel, things like air passenger rights laws and regulations. He’s really good at simplifying complex concepts and making them easily understandable. Kaspars favorite airlines are Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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