A transit visa is a document showing that a traveler has permission to pass through a country—but not to stay there.
Transit visas often come up when a traveler’s itinerary includes a layover in another country on the way to their final destination. The traveler won’t leave the airport, but still needs permission to be there during the layover.
In the United States, for instance, foreign citizens traveling through the US to get to another country typically must have a transit visa. For US citizens, a transit visa may be required for connecting in Russia and China, among other places.
Visa rules are complex and they vary quite a bit by a number of factors including:
For example, if the layover is less than 24 hours, and the traveler never leaves the airport, a transit visa may not be needed in some countries while others still require it.
A basic rule of thumb is that if the country you’re traveling through does not require citizens of your country to have a visa to visit for a longer period, it won’t require you to have a visa to transit through.
However, if the country you’re traveling through does require citizens of your country to have a visa to visit for a longer period, it may or may not require you to obtain a visa to transit through. Additionally, while some countries allow you to obtain a visa upon arrival, others require that you apply for and receive the visa before you arrive in the country.
Here are just a few examples of transit visa requirements:
The best way to figure out whether you’ll need a transit visa is to check with the consulate or embassy of the country you’ll be traveling through. The US State Department also lists requirements for US citizens traveling abroad.
And remember, in some cases, a transit visa is only good for transiting through the airport. If you have a long layover and want to spend some time outside the airport, you may need a different visa.