Transit Visa: Everything you need to know, including figuring out if you need one for your upcoming International Trip
Take a look at this screen shot from quora, below.
Notice the number of queries on Transit Visas for Indian citizens?
Those of you who have extensive international travel experience will not be surprised.
Like I have said before, you and I as Indians, are not a privileged lot when it comes to Foreign Travel.
As a fellow citizen, I feel for you guys.
Apart from the fact that we need pre-approved visas to enter most developed countries, a few countries also require us to have a visa, simply for transiting through their Airports (not entering the country).
You may have heard of horror stories of Indian passport holders being denied boarding or deported because they did not hold a transit visa (usually because they were not aware they needed one).
The agony is understandable, and very visible from the questions above.
Below is the list of top countries that Indian travelled to in the year 2015 (based on number of travellers as mentioned; Source: Wikipedia).
There are about 3 million Indians travelling to USA and Europe every year based on the statistics.
Now that is a big number
As these are long distance destinations. it is highly likely that flights to these destinations transit through International centers such as Amsterdam, Paris, Dubai, Brussels etc.
Considering these significant number of transits, we can safely assume that being cognizant of transit visa requirements is a real need for a significant number of travellers from India.
Below we are going to explore together the concept of the transit visa and how to figure out if you as an Indian citizen need one.
What is a Transit Visa
Transit Visas can be divided into 2 types:
1) Airport Transit Visa:
A visa required to transit through an International Airport in a country (without entering the country), while travelling onward to your final destination, in a different country.
E.g If you are transiting thorough Airports in Australia on the way to New Zealand, you will need to apply for an Australian Transit visa.
Here is what an Airport Transit looks like
In this case you do not enter the country and hence do not have to clear immigration.
Even your check-in baggage will be transferred from one Airline to another automatically and you can be collected at the final destination only
2) Short Stay Visa:
E.g. Indians holding a valid US visa can enter Singapore for 3 days while on the way to US.
Here is what a short stay transit looks like
For the purpose of this article, we are going to talk only about Airport Transit Visas and we will refer to it simply as Transit Visa.
Like we said before, Airport Transit Visa is a visa required for transiting through the Airport of a foreign country, while on the way to your final destination in a different country.
Why do countries require travellers to hold a transit visa?
To put it in broad terms, citizens of certain countries (economically challenged nations mostly) are an immigration risk from the point of view of the developed world.
Meaning citizens of these countries tend to enter developed countries and not leave (i.e. stay illegally).
Hence, most developed countries want to be kept informed whenever citizens of these countries are near their borders (in this case, the international area of the Airport).
What if you as a traveller do not have the neccessary documents to enter your destination country, and get deported.
Or what if you seek asylum in the Transit country.
Developed countries want to ensure that a transiting traveller holds the neccessary documentation to enter his or her final destination. They do this while processing the Transit Visa.
This makes the passenger less of an immigration risk.
That said, things are not as bad as it looks for the Indian.
Here are 2 things to note regarding Transit Visa:
1) Most countries do not require Indians to have a Transit Visa provided you fulfill the following criteria.
a) You do not leave the international area of the Airport.
e.g. If you are travelling to Washington through Paris Airport, you cannot enter Paris.
b) You hold a valid visa of the country you are travelling to.
e.g. You hold a valid US visa while travelling to Washington through Paris Airport.
But remember, I said most countries. There are rare exceptions
e.g. If you are transiting through Australia towards New Zealand, you would require an Australian Airport Transit Visa.
And that puts us in a tricky situation.
How are we to know whether we require a Transit Visa or not.
What we are denied boarding from India or deported from the Transit country. We have all heard such stories before.
Well there is no simple answer to it.
For one, Visa requirements keep changing very frequently and its very difficult to stay on top of the changes.
So what do you do? Well for one, Quora is not the place to get advice regarding this.
Here are the best ways to figure out your transit visa requirements.
1. Ask your Airline
Your Airline is the best resource to advice you on Transit Visa requirements.
Why? because they are the ones who will be on the receiving end in case there are some complications.
Most Airlines inform you of Transit Visa requirements before booking your tickets.
Its highly advisable to contact your Airline and ensure the visa requirements if any even before booking your flights.
Caution: Never book two separate tickets to your Final Destination.
e.g. Lets say you are travelling to Amsterdam through Dubai from Mumbai. Book a Single ticket from Mumbai to Amsterdam connecting through Dubai, and not 2 tickets, one from Mumbai to Dubai and second from Dubai to Amsterdam.
Booking 2 tickets in this case will require you to get a Dubai Visa (as you will have to clear immigration in Dubai). Also in case your flight to Dubai is delayed and you miss your flight to Amsterdam, you cannot hold the Airline responsible.
2: Check the IATA Travel Center
The IATA travel center is a cool tool that lets you enter your journey and passport details and tells you all your visa requirements.
We have written a whole article on how to use this amazing tool.
Here is a screenshot from IATA Travel Center.
We hope that by now you have all the nitty-gritties of the Transit Visa and have figured out how to find out if you need one.
Do you think I have missed out something? In that case, please let me know in the comments below.
Any questions are welcome too
Wishing you safe travels.