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As a non-US citizen traveling to the US, I am obliged to provide the airline and the border control officer with the address of the hotel where I will be spending my first night in the US. (The airline wants it in their APIS documents, the border control officer wants it on the customs declaration.)

I interpret this to mean that I am obliged to have a hotel reservation for the first night.

Now, what should I do if I miss a connection to my flight to the US or if that flight is cancelled? I will then arrive a day later, and in that case I may not have a hotel reservation, and thus I cannot provide a first address.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you miss your flight and are scheduled to arrive in the US on the 13th instead of the 12th, will you just shrug and do nothing? Or will you contact the hotel and say "I've missed my flight and will be arriving a day later than planned"? I think you'll get yourself a new reservation - you have to sleep somewhere.

If you were racing through the airport or had no charge on your phone battery or otherwise have no reservation any more, put down the name of the hotel you had planned to stay in, since presumably the moment you clear customs you're going to be contacting them to arrange to stay there.

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Okay, but then it turns out that the hotel is full, and I need to find another place to stay. Now, either the US border control may use the information I gave them and discover that I put an untrue statement on my entry documents; or they will not use the information I gave them, which makes me wonder why they need the information at all. –  oz1cz Oct 29 '13 at 22:02
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This is piling four hypotheticals together, each very rare: that you miss your flight, you don't have time to fix your reservation, you are one of the tiny fraction of people who's info is checked, and then that the hotel is full. Still, should all that happen, the hotel will confirm your story: you had a reservation but it was cancelled when you didn't show up. You will tell the immigration people the truth: that is where you planned to stay, but now you have learned from them that it is full, you will need to make some calls to get another hotel. –  Kate Gregory Oct 29 '13 at 22:42
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