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When entering the US, you are required to show forth a return ticket in order to get it. As a rather spontaneous person, I hate making plans, and would like to leave the US and go home when I feel like (within a couple of weeks of course), instead of having to stick to a ticket ordered weeks in advance.

To overcome this problem, I'm thinking this: I will instead purchase a "flex-ticket" home, which is a little more expensive, but also fully refundable. Which I can show in the airport upon arrival, and then cancel afterwards, giving me the option to purchase a new ticket home when I feel like it.

Is this hacking the system, or would it be OK - I'm in doubt because it seems almost too easy.

Cheers - Jakob, Denmark

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I'll be travelling with Norwegian btw – Jakob May 29 '14 at 22:49
why not get the cheapest return ticket and then just fail to show up at the airport? return tickets are almost always cheaper than one-way tickets. – JonathanReez May 29 '14 at 23:01
@NikitaSokolsky That would be about 200 bugs out the window, so don't really see that as an option.. haha – Jakob May 29 '14 at 23:21
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The requirement to have pre-booked return travel is essentially to demonstrate that you have the means (money) to return home at the conclusion of your visit. It is not necessary to actually take the flight you have booked (nobody will check). So, you can book any flight back home and then change it to what you actually want later.

Anecdotally, one time I did this I bought an onward "flex-ticket" (no fixed travel date) which was printed on an A4 sheet in some nonstandard form. When I arrived in my destination country (not the US in my case), immigration asked about return or onward travel, and were a bit confused about the ticket that I presented (they said they hadn't seen one quite like that before). It turned out fine though. Later I got a full refund for that ticket, but I had to show a long-term visa to the airline before they would give it to me. If I had to do that again, I would have bought a fully-refundable dated normal ticket somewhere else to reduce confusion.

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Given that the flight doesn't even need to be a flight - I've used a bus ticket in the past, as evidence I'll leave the USA (Seattle to Vancouver), and then changed to a flight. All it is, is a means to confirm you have both intention to leave, and the capability and cash to leave - ie have afforded a ticket before spending your tourist dollars on Blackjack in Vegas ;)

Once you're in the country, there's nothing against you changing your plans, as long as you follow the terms of your visa (eg don't overstay, don't break the law etc).

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Thanks very much, clears some misconceptions I've had about the reason for that rule, and makes sense at that. Is it enough that the ticket goes to Canada just? Because I think I've read somewhere that it needed to be to a country outside North America, and Columbia for that matter. But not sure. – Jakob May 29 '14 at 23:19
@Jakob: You can use a ticket to Canada. However, note that travelling to Canada does not reset the 90-day maximum stay in the US that you get under the VWP. (There are many other questions about this on the site.) This is only relevant if you want to go to the US again after Canada. If you fly from Canada to anywhere outside North America, then you can stay in Canada for as long as the Canadians will let you (unrelated to how long you spent in the US just before that). – Greg Hewgill May 29 '14 at 23:23
Okay, thank you - and sorry for the repost then – Jakob May 29 '14 at 23:41

The return flight ticket is only to show them that you won't overstay in the US. My recommendation is to book the round trip ticket and just pay some extra money to change the returning ticket after you enter the US.

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