My sister-in-law (Nicaraguan Citizen) is currently studying abroad in Taiwan. She has a 3 month vacation coming up this June - Sept. and my husband and I are trying to find a way for her to spend some time with us in Wisconsin. She has a transit visa because on her way from Managua to Taiwan (last Sept.), she had a layover in L.A. or San Francisco.

In the past, she had already been denied a tourist Visa, twice. She thought she could go to a U.S. Embassy in Taiwan to apply for a Tourist Visa but there is no U.S. Embassy there. Taiwan appears to be part of the Visa waiver program. Flying Taiwan to Nicaragua is very expensive ($1,500+). Can she buy a round trip ticket from Taiwan to Chicago (a few hours from our home) for about 3 weeks and stay here on the C-Transit Visa? Or would that transit visa only be used in a situation of flying from Taiwan to her country of Citizenship, Nicaragua, with a layover somewhere in the U.S.

Is there any way she can apply again for a Tourist Visa from outside her country of citizenship in a country that doesn't have a U.S. Embassy? If she were to fly to Nicaragua on a round-trip to Taiwan (because she has to be back at school there in Sept.), I don't think she would have enough time to apply for a Tourist Visa there - I believe it can take months - and still have time to come an visit us, if she were to get the Visa.

  • Related: Staying over night on US transit visa. You might be able to get a single night, if you live near the transit airport, but anything beyond that is unlikely. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 15:03
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    Think about it: there would be no point having visitor visas if arriving in a country, spending a holiday there and then leaving counted as "transit". Transit is when you enter a country just to change planes and then fly on to a different country. When the country you're entering is your final destination and the next plane you're getting on is the plane home three weeks later, that's not transit. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 21:54
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    You've added a second question to your question's title (although not the body of the question). Please don't - if you have a new question, then ask a new, seperate question.
    – CMaster
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 12:59
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    It bears mention that transit visas allow stays of up to 29 days because people might travel by means other than air. Before the advent of jet airplanes and controlled-access highways, a trip from (e.g.) Canada to Mexico would reasonably have required days or even weeks to cross the United States.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 14:13
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    The same transit visa is also used by ship's crews, who may board their ship immediately but not be scheduled to depart the US for several days or weeks. This is why 29 days is permitted. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 19:05

3 Answers 3


The reason there is no US embassy in Taiwan is because the US does not recognise the Republic of China (the government of Taiwan) as the legitimate government of China - it recognises the People's Republic of China (mainland China).

The offical US embassy site notes:

*Taiwan Note: The U.S. maintains unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a private nonprofit corporation, which performs citizen and consular services similar to those at diplomatic posts. See AIT's website www.ait.org.tw/en/ for details.

This is also supported by the State Deparment's page on Taiwan (see the "Consular Services" section.

You can find more about applying for visas on the relevant page of the AIT's website.

Coming to visit you, especially for a long period is not permitted on a Transit visa. Under the ""Travel purposes not permitted on a Transit (C) Visa - Examples:" list on the State Department website, it says this:

A foreign citizen whose layover in the United States is for a primary purpose other than to transit, for example to visit friends or sightsee, requires a visitor (B) visa.

Some other answers on this site indicate that short diversions to visit family say, overnight are often tolerated. By inference, 3 weeks probably would not be. Traveling in US while transit visa

  • It's true here that the embassy and consulates were closed as a consequence of the one China policy; however, the absence of a diplomatic station is more often simple impracticality, especially for smaller countries. Even the US chooses not to maintain facilities in Nauru, Kiribati, Tonga, or Tuvalu; all consular services for those countries are handled by the embassy in Fiji.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 14:21
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    @choster Taiwan is not an inconsequential player like Tonga. Two way U.S. trade with the ROC approaches $100bn, although mainland China is now a larger factor for Taiwan. With Tonga it's something like $20m (1/5000 as much), which can hardly support a consular staff let alone merit spies etc. Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 15:39
  • @SpehroPefhany We're saying the same thing, I think— sometimes it's politics, sometimes economics, but there's no guarantee that a country will maintain diplomatic facilities in another. People living in Taiwan are certainly conscious of their awkward diplomatic situation, which has been a key issue over the last several presidential elections.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 15:49

According to official US information (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/taiwan.html), the American Institute in Taipei performs "consular services similar to those at embassies". Your sister-in-law should be apply to apply for a US visa from there.

Also, a transit visa is intended to be used for a "brief layover in the United States when the only reason for entering the United States is to transit." A stay of three weeks is unlikely to make the US immigration officer happy, even if it occurs on-route to or from Taiwan.


The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is the US embassy in Taiwan in all but name (they have a "director" receives the same rank and benefits as US ambassadors in other countries; they are staffed by State Department employees; they have a website that looks the same as US embassy websites; they handle the same functions a normal US embassy would). Many countries maintain such "embassies in all but name" in Taiwan. It's a diplomatic pretend game -- everybody knows it's a US embassy, but the PRC is satisfied that it's not officially called such.

Conversely, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices (TECO) are the embassy and consulates, respectively, of the Republic of China in the US and other countries, in all but name. They can't call it embassy and consulates, but everybody knows what they are.

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    All the politicians know what they are. The rest of us have to ask: "Where on earth is the embassy?!" Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:01
  • Thank you. So, my sister in law, as a citizen of Nicaragua and not of Taiwan, could apply for a US Travel Visa while in Taiwan as a student by going to the AIT in Taipei? I'm unfamiliar with with how to obtain a USA Visa, thinking that it had to be done from a person's country of citizenship. If the AIT in Taiwan handles Visa requests made by foreigners I will let her know.
    – Kathy
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 6:05
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    @Kathy: The AIT website indicates that they do accept applications from third country nationals (ait.org.tw/en/non-taiwan-passport-holders.html).
    – user102008
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 10:05
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    @Kathy travel would be much more difficult if you could only get a visa in your country of citizenship. Countries differ in the details, but they all allow people to apply in their country of residence, and most include those staying semi-temporarily, such as students, to be residents for this purpose.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 14:20

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