Home Airports How Leaving Another Country Is Different From Leaving The USA

How Leaving Another Country Is Different From Leaving The USA

by joeheg

Every country in the world handles how people cross the border differently. That’s their prerogative because it’s their border. However the differences can lead to difficulties when you’re flying and have to schedule how much time you’ll need to get through immigration.

When entering a country, you’ll expect to wait to be processed. Depending on the country you’re entering, you’ll have to show your passport and possibly a visa or fill out an online form and pay a fee to enter the country.

Leaving a country, that’s another story.

Being from the USA, I’m accustomed to our way of boarding international flights. You check in at the airline desk and show your passport (and other documents). Then you get on a plane to wherever you’re going. Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, wherever; we really don’t care that much if you’re leaving the USA. We only care when you want to get back in.

In other countries, not so much.

For example, we had no problems boarding our Icelandair flight from JFK-KEF. The major thing the airline desk wanted to see was the QR code from filling out our entry paperwork. From there we went through the TSA checkpoint and waited at the gate.

When flying home from KEF-JFK, that’s not what happened. We arrived at the airport early because we had to return our rental car and left plenty of time.

After waiting in a rather long line to check our bags and show confirmation of our negative COVID test, we had time to shop in the duty-free and grab some food before the flight.

Not the best meal but we weren’t getting any food on our Icelandair flight. When our gate showed up on the screen, we started walking to the plane. We didn’t know that we had to clear immigration before getting to the gate.

The line, which filled two rooms, was full of people flying out of Iceland. While we were worried about making our plane, the line moved pretty fast. In fact, we hardly stood still the entire time. Regardless, it took 20 extra minutes we weren’t planning on.

Our flight was already boarding when we got through the checkpoint to the gate. That’s cutting it closer than we’d like.

We’ve experienced a similar procedure when leaving other countries. That means that the US is the outlier when monitoring who leaves the country, passing the responsibility of checking passports to the airlines.

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Kurt May 4, 2022 - 8:15 pm

You’ve failed to mention the “Biometric Exit” program which has been mandated in US law. Yes, the government has delegated the actual implementation to the airlines, but they have given them access to the CBP facial recognition database in order to do so.

Arlington Traveler (@ArlingtonTravel) May 4, 2022 - 8:34 pm

There’s a reason for this. Other countries generally have separate terminals (or at least separate concourses) for international and domestic flights. We don’t in the USA. The only other major country that doesn’t separate is Mexico, and don’t ever connect there as they make you clear customs and immigration even as a transit passenger.


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