Consider the following situation:

Someone is travelling from USA to China and back, and the flight stops in Canada (both ways). It is a single flight ticket, however it is necessary to transit through a Canadian airport.

Is it necessary to obtain a Canadian transit visa?

Assume the person needs a visa to enter all of USA, China, Canada, and already has visas for USA and China. Please comment if additional information is needed. Links to official information sources describing the situation would be appreciated.

  • 1
    Which airport, and which airline? In this case, both matter...
    – Doc
    Jun 17, 2014 at 1:52
  • @Doc Air Canada, Vancouver. Meanwhile I found this, which suggests that Chinese citizens might be exempt from the transit visa (at this airport/airline) if transiting within the same day. As I read it, non-Chinese citizens can't use this option. Also, it's not clear if Chinese citizens can use this option if they have an expired US visa at the time of transiting (but have not overstayed or gotten into other trouble). The US is weird in that visas give the right to enter, not the right to stay there (two separate things).
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 17, 2014 at 1:56
  • Can you at least specify the nationality(ies) of the person transiting? Or do you want an answer that covers all nationalities?
    – user102008
    Jun 17, 2014 at 2:53
  • @user102008 Romanian and Chinese citizens.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 17, 2014 at 2:54
  • @Szabolcs: well the Chinese national would not "need a visa to enter all of USA, China, Canada" would they?
    – user102008
    Jun 17, 2014 at 3:19

2 Answers 2


Canada has two programs for transiting without visa between the U.S. and third countries:

For both programs, you need to have a valid U.S. visa, arrive in Canada on certain approved airlines, transit through Vancouver or Toronto terminal 1, and for China Transit Program transiting to the U.S., you need to arrive from certain cities.

From your comments, you say that it is for a Romanian and a Chinese national. The Chinese national could use the China Transit Program if they meet the above requirements. The Romanian national is out of luck; Romania also doesn't have visa waiver access to Canada, so will need a transit visa.

In reality, you only need to go through Canadian immigration when transiting from the U.S. to a third country. When transiting from a third country to the U.S., you never go through Canadian immigration -- you directly go through U.S. immigration pre-clearance (unless you arrive outside its operating hours), so in that case you may be able to get away with not having a Canadian transit visa, even though the rules say you need it (if the airline lets you on the plane in the first place that is).

  • I don't think the last paragraph is correct. The fact that an airport has US pre-clearance facilities does not imply that internationally-arriving passengers can bypass CBSA and proceed straight to the US pre-clerance. That would be called "in-transit pre-clearance", which only some airports / terminals allow. Jun 17, 2014 at 3:41
  • @AriBrodsky: In Vancouver and Toronto terminal 1 (the only terminals where TWOV is offered to those eligible for it), you go directly to US pre-clearance without going CBSA.
    – user102008
    Jun 17, 2014 at 6:12
  • It's usually the case that you don't actually clear Canadian immigration when in transit, whether or not there is US pre-clearance. However it's a very bad idea not to have the correct transit visa. The airline probably won't let you on, and if Canadian immigration catch you you could be looking at an entry ban. Feb 27 at 22:34

The answer is, it depends on many factors.

For example, the Vancouver Airport has a page for Connecting through YVR where you select:

  • your originating country
  • your arrival airline
  • your destination country
  • your departure airline

The web site will then give you detailed information about arrival procedures, time of day when certain services are available, and other information. You will have to enter the specific information for your traveller in order to find a suitable answer.

EDIT: Chinese citizens may be eligible for the China Transit Program where a transit visa is not required (but there are a lot of conditions).

Romanian citizens need a visa to transit through Canada.

Note that the Romanian passengers in your group will not likely be able to remain with the Chinese citizens in the airport if the Chinese citizens choose the China Transit Program option. Presumably you would all end up departing on the same flight as scheduled, of course.

  • Thank you Greg, this is definitely useful information. But the website you link to does not talk about whether one needs a transit visa for this situation.
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 17, 2014 at 0:48
  • In the combination of choices I selected, there was a link to the Customs & Immigration section where you can find information about visa requirements, which depend on the nationality of the traveller. Jun 17, 2014 at 1:07
  • @Szabolcs: I have updated my answer based on the additional information you have provided. Jun 17, 2014 at 3:01
  • "the Romanian passengers in your group will not likely be able to remain with the Chinese citizens in the airport if the Chinese citizens choose the China Transit Program option" <-- why are you saying this? Doesn't everyone end up in the same place after passing through the formalities?
    – Szabolcs
    Jun 18, 2014 at 23:02
  • The departure lounge will be the same, but the immigration procedures will be different. You will be separated during the arrival procedures and will not have an easy way to contact each other during that time. If that doesn't bother you, then no problem. Jun 18, 2014 at 23:10

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