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Here's the situation: I want to bring my girlfriend over here to Portugal for the holidays. She's Venezuelan but is in Trinidad and Tobago right now. My plan is to save money by buying 2 different plane tickets, one from Trinidad to Miami, and another one from Miami to Portugal. My question is, does she need a visa to stay in the US for 3 hours to catch another flight?

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Yes, she needs a C-1 visa to change planes in the US, because the US has no exit border controls, so domestic and international flights aren't segregated in the departures area. In addition, it is possible to exit the departures area without any checks.

Thus, anyone touching down at a US airport must enter the US.

This fact is stated in Timatic, the database used by Airlines.

There are no TWOV facilities available in the USA

(TWOV=transit without visa)

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  • The physical layout of airports is not the cause of the visa requirement. There used to be TWOV available in the US, but the practice was ended several years ago. – phoog Dec 1 '16 at 18:01
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    @phoog Well, back then pax boarded planes from two locations, one for transiting pax and one for others. Without this arrangement, the physical layout of the airports does make it impossible to introduce TWOV. To make it possible, one would have to make it impossible to leave the departures area once airside, and require some form of biometric capture for all passengers clearing security, which would then be verified if boarding a domestic flight. – Crazydre Dec 1 '16 at 18:06
  • @Crazydre: Canada also doesn't have exit controls, but Canada does have TWOV for nationals of a few Asian countries. – user102008 Dec 1 '16 at 18:34
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    Before September 11, the US did have TWOV. Passengers from a variety of countries were allowed to transit landside if they had an onward ticket. There was no difference in airport layout between then and now. This was one of the things eliminated after the attacks; it was gone by 2005 or so. And @user102008 Canada is physically changing its airports to allow for TWOV, at least to US preclearance. There are now dedicated transit lanes that bypass Canada immigration and go directly to US preclearance in most (or maybe all, by now) Canadian airports which have US preclearance. – Michael Hampton Dec 1 '16 at 18:51
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    @phoog Guess they simply tolerated the risk of people absconding back then, seeing as Things were more relaxed pre-9/11. – Crazydre Dec 2 '16 at 9:25

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