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Suspension of the Transit Without Visa Program and International-to-International Transit Program

Written by Henry J. Chang

On August 2, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") and the Department of State ("DOS") suspended two programs that allow certain international air passengers to travel through the United States for transit purposes without first obtaining a visa. The programs, known as the Transit Without Visa program ("TWOV") and the International-to-International transit program ("ITI"), were suspended as of 11:00 am (EST) on August 2, 2003. This action does not affect U.S. citizens or citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries.

The TWOV program has been in use in the United States since 1952. It applies to passengers who normally would be required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States. Under the TWOV program, passengers arriving in the United States from a foreign country are permitted to travel through the United States to another foreign destination without first obtaining a visa to stop and change planes in the United States. Passengers under the TWOV program go through the full border inspection process upon arrival in the U.S. Under the TWOV program, a passenger may stop at one or two U.S. airports en route to another foreign destination. If on a domestic flight to a second U.S. airport, the airline is responsible for ensuring that the passenger does not illegally enter the United States. Airlines provide contract security escorts and are required to maintain control of the passengerís passport and other travel documents.

The ITI program also allows passengers arriving from foreign countries to transit through the United States to another foreign destination without first obtaining a visa. Unlike the TWOV program, however, ITI passengers may only transit through one airport, and they may not leave the international transit lounge while connecting planes at that airport.

In 2002, the top five countries from which TWOV passengers arrived in the United States were Brazil, Mexico, Korea, the Philippines, and Peru. The greatest number of TWOV and ITI passengers transited the U.S. through airports in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Dallas and Houston.

It is the intention of both departments to reinstate the TWOV and ITI programs as soon as additional security measures can be implemented to safeguard the programs from terrorists who wish to gain access to the U.S. or U.S. airspace without going through the consular screening process. However, for the moment, these programs are currently unavailable.

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