British passport holder with a 7-hour 35-minute layover in New York before embarking for a flight to Charleston, South Carolina. Can I get out of the airport at JFK and explore NY City? I have both the approved Global Entry U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States and ESTA visa waiver document.

NB: The United Kingdom is a participant in the visa waiver program.

  • 4
    You'll be landed anyway (that is, you'll enter the US and cross immigration) as part of your normal flight. The problem is can you make it back in time for your connection. TSA lines can get backed up and then there is the traffic situation. I don't know how much time you'll have to enjoy the city. Mar 31, 2018 at 9:46
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    It is not optional. You will exit into the arrivals part of the airport, whether you want to or not. Whether you then choose to go through security for your connecting flight, or walk out into the street, is your decision. Feel free to drop your bag at bag drop if you have one even if you don't immediately go airside.
    – Calchas
    Mar 31, 2018 at 13:17

2 Answers 2


Note that all passengers will go through immigration in JFK. You’ll pick up your bags, go through customs, and then drop them off at the transit desk at the other end of customs. At that point you’ve formally entered the USA.

From there, you can leave the airport as long as you get back on time for your next flight. Having global entry may give you TSA Precheck which will expedite your re-entry for your departure flight.

I would give yourself (there's a bit of buffer time included in these examples):

• 1.5 hours from landing to clear customs and immigration and get to the airport exit

• 1.5 hours to get from JFK to downtown Manhattan, either via train or taxi

• 1.5 hours to get back from downtown Manhattan

• 1 hour from JFK curbside to get back to your departure gate

Total = 5.5 hours - which gives you about 2 hours of sightseeing downtown

Note: If your domestic flight is on a Precheck participating airline and you entered your Pre number in your passenger data but your domestic boarding pass doesn't have the TSA Pre logo on it (because you had it printed in the UK), you might ask at the transit desk if they can re-print your domestic boarding pass so that it shows Pre-check. That'll speed your re-entry but it might not always be possible. @Berwyn has the excellent suggestion of seeing if your mobile boarding pass for the domestic flight has the TSA Pre check symbol on it, which would save you the time to reprint it.

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    ... and the situation for people who enter with a visa is exactly the same. Mar 31, 2018 at 1:48
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    It's not so much printing the BP in the UK that prevents it having pre-check, as the international leg being on a non-precheck airline such as BA. In such a case it would be useful to use mobile check-in for the domestic leg if possible
    – Berwyn
    Mar 31, 2018 at 19:22

Your passport doesn’t matter, all passenger will enter the US (or be sent back home), and then you are free to go wherever you want, including NYC. In other words, there is no ‘international area’ in the airport - you are either in the US, or between arriving plane and immigration counter (and you cannot stay there)

Your problem will be the distances and times - it takes you easily 2 hours from immigration to downtown NY, the same time back, plus you need to get back through security, so there is not too much time left in the city.
If you are willing to spend the money to ride in a cab, you can squeeze out another hour.

  • 2
    Even If there were an international area, the traveler world have to clear immigration in New York because the next flight is domestic.
    – phoog
    Mar 31, 2018 at 11:17

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