There are many countries which may have different entry and travel policies both for their citizens and non-citizens. So, when travelling to these foreign countries across the globe, inclusive of connecting flights, it may sometimes, be necessary to apply for certain documents and/or approval/permit. Thus, one such important document or permit needed while travelling by air is a transit visa.
In this blog, we will provide you an in-depth overview of a transit visa, who requires it and how it serves its purpose for travellers.
What is a Transit Visa?
A transit visa is basically a document or approval that is provided in the passenger’s itinerary and is usually valid for a very short period of time from the date of issue. This type of temporary visa’s validity cannot be extended.
This visa officially allows the passenger to enter or just pass through the country via connecting flights or other means of transportation, but does not permit him/her staying in that country. Therefore, the term “transit visa” generally indicates your transit flight or connecting flight that is en route to your final destination.
For example, if you are a U.S. citizen travelling from the U.S. to Russia and your itinerary includes one or more layovers, you will need a transit visa. This visa will permit your entry into or transit through Russia. It is needed also if your layovers are longer than 24 hours and up to 72 hours. You can stay at the layover airport, but cannot leave the airport.
However, you will require a different type of visa approval, such as a tourist visa, in order to stay in a foreign country for a limited period.
What is the Validity Period for a Transit Visa?
A transit visa’s approval and validity period is issued and managed by the administration of that country. It is also likely that the validity of this visa will vary in different countries.
For instance, Singapore airport requires passengers to have a transit visa in order to stay at the airport, even if it’s less than 24 hours before boarding a connecting flight.
Transit visa required to enter Dubai is issued to passengers upon arrival, in case the transit flights through Dubai to another country have a longer stopover of 72 hours or more. Thus, depending on the flight’s stopover duration, a transit visa can also be issued with a validity period of up to 96 hours.
How to Know whether You Require a Transit Visa?
As mentioned already, different countries have different travel policies. Therefore, the best way to know if you will need a transit visa for travelling to your destination located in that country, it is advised to contact or visit the consulate or embassy in your country.
Most commonly, a transit visa is only required under the following circumstances:
- The country you are visiting.
- You are not a citizen of the country that you’re travelling to.
- You have a layover for 24 hours or longer.
Some countries may also require travellers to obtain a transit visa even if the duration of layover is less than 24 hours.
There are Schengen states (comprises 26 countries called Schengen Area) in Europe which require travellers of other nationals to obtain an airport transit visa when travelling through their airports.
Here is a short list of a few countries given in alphabetical order whose citizens will need a transit visa in order to enter or pass through a Schengen territory.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
So, if you are a citizen of the above mentioned countries and your itinerary requires you to stop and change flights at a Schengen airport, you will need to obtain a permit called the “Airport Transit Schengen Visa”.
Again, this visa will only allow you to stay at the International transit area of the Schengen airport. But, you cannot leave the airport, even if you have to wait for your flight overnight.
There are however a few exceptions with regard to the Airport Transit Visa that is issued to certain individuals. If you are a citizen of the countries mentioned above, you may not be obliged to obtain an airport transit visa under the conditions given as follows:
- If you hold a residency permit from a Schengen member country, a valid Schengen Visa for short stays or long stays.
- If you hold a residency permit from countries, such as Andorra, Canada, Japan, San Marino or the USA that guarantees your whereabouts.
- If you hold a valid Schengen visa or a valid visa for entering one of the EFTA countries as well as Canada, Japan or the United States, even if you are returning from those certain countries after using this visa.
- If you are a family member of an EU citizen (close family only).
- If you hold a diplomatic passport.
The list of countries given above only includes a few countries. For a complete list of countries, it is suggested that you visit the Schengen Visa Info website.
How to Apply for a Transit Visa?
Generally speaking, the steps required and the process involved in issuing a transit visa to travellers belonging to different nationals can vary significantly from one country to another.
If the country you are travelling to mandate a transit visa, you will need to apply in order to obtain one. The easiest way to apply for a transit visa is to fill an online application form. But, bear in mind that the approval can take some time, even days. So, you must plan your travel in advance to avoid any complications.
You may also visit a consulate or embassy in your country to apply for a transit visa and get approval for travelling to the destination country. This also includes any connecting flights.
On the other hand, some countries may allow travellers to obtain their transit visa upon arriving at the destination airport.
A transit visa will largely depend on your nationality and your entry to the destination country you are travelling to. Therefore, it is a good idea to know these things before packing your baggage and leaving home with your flight ticket in hand.