I understand that ESTA travellers are allowed to travel and can also go the Automated Passport Control (APC) in certain airports. But once I have arrived in a state (e.g. NY) and then would like to go to another state e.g. IL - How does this work? Do I need to treat this as an international travel i.e. do the ESTA based checks again?

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    With the exception of California and Florida, state lines in the US are hardly noticeable even when travelling by land, and there are no restrictions on movement -- just a sign on the side of the road saying "Welcome to X state." (California and Florida perform random agricultural inspections on road travellers, but not on air travellers -- and these inspections are only to prevent you from transporting agricultural pests, so there is no immigration control.)
    – ajd
    Aug 12, 2017 at 0:09
  • Florida doesn't have agricultural inspections on visitors traveling by car, rv etc, just for commercial transport.
    – user13044
    Aug 12, 2017 at 1:09
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    There is no immigration control between the 50 states. You don't even need to carry a passport with you (if you have a US license or ID, for example; of course, as an ESTA traveller, you are highly unlikely to have one). e.g. I'm not a US citizen but I have a state ID; I use it to fly and no one has ever asked me about my immigration status. Even when I use my passport, TSA officials are always only interested in my identity and never in my immigration status. Agricultural inspections are a different story, but they never involve immigration checks either.
    – xuq01
    Aug 12, 2017 at 5:22
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    The ag checks on Florida highways are only for commercial vehicles. Private vehicles just drive past them.
    – reirab
    Aug 12, 2017 at 18:23
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    You are a VWP (visa waiver program en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_Waiver_Program) traveller, not an ESTA traveller. You can cross the land boarder from Canada or Mexico without having an ESTA. ESTA just authorizes you to board a scheduled plane or ship heading to USA. Aug 13, 2017 at 10:51

2 Answers 2


No. It's a domestic flight. There's no immigration control. Only passengers arriving from international destinations are sent to the immigration hall. When you check in for the flight, you'll need your passport, but only for the purpose of identification (actually, there are several other documents that can be used for identification, but most ESTA travelers won't have one). Your immigration status is very unlikely to be an issue unless you're flying from an airport near the Mexican border. Even in the unlikely case that it becomes an issue, ESTA will have nothing to do with it; the relevant record is your I-94 record in the CBP database.


If you try to cross the US-Canada border, you'll know what the States didn't want to have between them. The idea of no border controls is an important part of American identity. There is simply no immigration control at State borders. None.

On the train, the border whisks by and you never know it's there.

In air travel, you have TSA security to deter hijackings, but that's nothing like customs and immigration. The only question I've ever been asked is why I didn't know to take my laptop out of the bag, and they did look for manner and presentation to see whether I was being sneaky or merely uninformed.

By highway, the roads are wide open. Contrast borders with Schengen-area nations and British Countries:

enter image description here

(Ohio's sign was probably knocked down). On the larger roads (e.g. Interstate freeways) they will have much nicer signs. They will also have a "Welcome Center" at the first or second exit, where you can stop to get free official State maps, and brochures of area attractions. The Welcome Centers are not mandatory, unless you are obsessive about collecting free maps.

Texas's border controls go a step further. They add this sign:

enter image description here

A few states, such as California, will have inspection stations near borders for agricultural checks - all they ask about is if you have certain foods they are concerned with, such as fruits and vegetables (carry invasive insects) or northern pike.

Checkpoints not related to State borders

Relevant to immigrants is US border patrol checkpoints. Some are interior checkpoints, and being Federal, they completely disregard state boundaries. Some are permanent, others are improvised.

Police will set up checkpoints for a variety of reasons, usually drunk drivers. This has been challenged unsuccessfully in court.

Domestic TSA aircraft security (and the more subtle security on rail) is not about state borders.

Any police encounter is a risk for overstayers and people with arrest warrants, but it really depends what they're looking for.

Some highways and most ferries charge tolls, and have toll-booths, but most prefer you'd bypass the human and use an automated toll payment system. The only question you are likely to get is "Do you have any bills smaller than a $100?"

California and a few other states will seasonally have tire-chain inspection stations - because when someone says "California", the first thing you think is tire chains!

Sources: Wikipedia and mediawiki

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    Nice answer. As far as I'm aware the British prefer the term "country" to "state."
    – phoog
    Aug 12, 2017 at 8:05
  • @phoog As a Brit, I concur.
    – IanF1
    Aug 12, 2017 at 9:14
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    For whatever it's worth, going through TSA security is not actually a police encounter. They're not law enforcement officers. If they find something illegal, however, they can call actual law enforcement officers to arrest you.
    – reirab
    Aug 12, 2017 at 18:35
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    I'm amazed you only need three to say "superfluous"! Aug 12, 2017 at 21:19
  • "By highway, the roads are wide open." Not quite. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – akhmeteli
    Aug 12, 2017 at 21:36

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