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Most, if not all, European airports have international transfer zones, meaning that if you don't have to pass customs and immigration check of the country the airport is located in. On the other hand in US airports do not have international transfer zones. (Note that in case of Schengen zone countries "international" would mean out-of-Schengen).

How about rest of the world, which case is more typical?

Note: I'm not expecting full list of countries, just general indication what's the case in other regions.

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I worry this might turn into a list style question. (Might not though, as the US situation is fairly unusual, at least for major airports worldwide) – Gagravarr Jun 28 '13 at 13:33
@Gagravarr: right, let me make that clear in the question. – vartec Jun 28 '13 at 13:35
It can be triggered by immigration law (eg US), or an airport not being geared up to segregate passengers suitably (tends to be smaller airports) – Gagravarr Jun 28 '13 at 13:36
@vartec you're wrong. Frankfurt Hahn Airport (HHN) has no transfer zone but there are flights from there to Bulgaria (EU but not Schengen) and Turkey (Not EU) – Dirty-flow Jun 28 '13 at 13:48
And Madrid has an EU zone and a world zone - so even if you're doing 'international' flying, you still pass to pass through immigration if entering Europe at that point, and again in say, London (source: have flown through there several times) – Mark Mayo Jun 28 '13 at 14:41
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Sterile international transfer is possible at many gateway airports in many countries, but one cannot make a rule about it. It depends on the facilities of the airport and its terminals, including staff, and it goes without saying that you should always double-check transit requirements when planning a trip.

At Toronto Pearson (YYZ), for example, I believe sterile transfer is possible if your inbound and outbound flights both use Terminal 1 (as with some U.S.-bound flights), but as most long-haul international carriers use Terminal 3, you'd need to go through CBSA screening as there is no sterile transit facility between terminals.

On the other side of the country Vancouver goes so far as to provide a Connecting Through YVR calculator that determines the procedure applicable to you based on your arriving and departing airlines— sterile transit is only possible with certain connections and only between the hours of 9:00am and 8:00pm local time.

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