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I have an expired F-1 visa and am travelling back to Nigeria from the US to renew it, with a layover at Amsterdam (AMS). The [airline] counter in US says I can't layover in AMS with my expired visa.

Is this confirmed or did she misunderstand me?

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TIMATIC, the database used by the airlines, states:

Visa required, except for Nationals of Nigeria, holding onward tickets transiting by the same or first connecting aircraft and meeting one of the following conditions:

  • holding a valid visa issued by Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland (Rep.), Japan, Romania, USA or United Kingdom, traveling to any non-Schengen Member State;
  • returning from Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland (Rep.), Japan, Romania, USA or United Kingdom after having used the visa;

Note it says "one of the following conditions".

Because you're returning from the US after having used the visa, the visa does not need to be valid.

In other words, the airline counter was wrong, and since they're obviously too lazy to look up the rules, I strongly recommend you to print the linked page (click on the word "Timatic" and the page will show)

You do not need an airport transit visa for Amsterdam.

  • I had to cancel the flight anyways, but i will use the above mentioned link to ask next time. – Curious Dec 20 '16 at 8:34
  • Ask a new question then, because if you're going through other countries different rules may apply – Crazydre Dec 20 '16 at 8:54
  • I meant to ask them at the airline counter – Curious Dec 20 '16 at 13:54
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    @Curious Very often they will say "we don't know, it's not our responsibility, ask the embassy" - up until the day of travel, when suddenly they know exactly whether to let you board. They are supposed to go by Timatic (although they're often too lazy to look it up or read carefully, instead saying on the day of travel "meh, you can't board, get lost" if they're not used to a situation). That's why I recommend to bring a Timatic printout containing the info for the countries you're passing through – Crazydre Dec 20 '16 at 14:19
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According to the The Embassy of Netherlands in Nigeria,

You do not require a Schengen airport transit visa, if you:

  • Hold a valid visa or residence permit issued by a Schengen state.
  • Hold a visa valid for a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area, Canada, Japan or the United States.
  • Hold a valid residence permit issued by a member state of the European Union or the European Economic Area.
  • Hold a residence permit issued by the Principality of Andorra, Canada, Japan, the Republic of San Marino, or the United States, that guarantees unrestricted right of return.
  • Are a family member of a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland.
  • Hold a diplomatic passport.
  • Are on-duty aircrew and a national of a country that is a party to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.

The point in bold is important in your case (emphasis is mine). As your F-1 visa has expired, the USA would not let you in using this visa, that is you do not have an "unrestricted right of return" to the USA.

Therefore, unless at least one other point applies, you do need an airport transit visa to transfer in AMS. Do note that whenever a visa to any country is mentioned, it is always meant to be a valid, non-expired, non-cancelled and, in case of a single-entry, unused visa.

The site as linked above also contains information on how to apply for the transit visa.

  • The bold part isn't relevant, as it is describing permanent residency (e.g. a US green card). The relevant bit is "Hold a visa valid for a...," but an expired visa is, of course, not valid. The actual rule, as explained by Timatic allows one to transit with a visa "after having used the visa. However, airlines often don't allow this for US visas which expired months or years earlier. – Zach Lipton Dec 18 '16 at 22:11
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    The text of the embassy's website is actually incomplete, the rule also covers “third-country nationals holding a valid visa for a Member State or for a State party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area of 2 May 1992, Canada, Japan or the United States of America, or when they return from those countries after having used the visa;” (my emphasis). How exactly this is supposed to be interpreted and enforced with US visas (which unlike European visas can be expired for months when you return) is not completely clear to me. – Relaxed Dec 18 '16 at 22:14
  • @Relaxed Fair enough. As you're aware, with US visas, you can enter the US on the last day of your visa validity, then stay there for months (provided type of visa allows it). It's possible that the airline is playing it safe and an expired F-1 visa is technically ok on a return flight from the US - but ultimately if they refuse boarding, there's not much an OP can do. – Aleks G Dec 18 '16 at 22:24
  • @Relaxed Also, they rules you state are general Schengen area rules. It is possible that Netherlands specifically have some other ideas about Nigerian nationals specifically (rightly or wrongly, I'm not judging). However it's also rather likely that Dutch airline would apply rules written on a Dutch government's website. – Aleks G Dec 18 '16 at 22:25
  • @AleksG That's not how the Schengen area and EU law (especially regulations) work. If the Netherlands could impose arbitrary restrictions or create new rules or new categories, the whole thing would be basically empty. The only thing they could conceivably do is defend some interpretation that allows them to claim the OP was not "returning after having used a visa” as understood by the regulation. – Relaxed Dec 18 '16 at 22:50

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