Last year, there was news circulating that the US may start having immigration checks for non-US citizens/residents leaving the US. However, a friend told me that the CBP still has no exit control policy. A friend of mine also informed me that he didn't have to go through immigration while leaving the US this summer.

I'll be travelling from Chicago to Abu Dhabi to Lahore in a few months. I'm not a US citizen/resident. When I leave the US, will I have to go through immigration? Will my passport me scanned on the machine, or would they simply look at the information on my documents?

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    What you quote is not news, it is speculation. And no, it won't be implemented "in a few months".
    – George Y.
    Aug 21, 2018 at 3:49
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    @GeorgeY. It is not speculation to report an executive order that calls for an exit immigration system, nor is it speculation to note that there has been a statutory mandate for a biometric exit control system for something like the last two decades. The timing of the implementation is unclear, so subject to speculation. But the plans that are in the works are entirely extensions of the current system in which airlines collect departing passengers' data, so it's not speculative to say that systematic exit inspections by government officers are not in the foreseeable future.
    – phoog
    Aug 21, 2018 at 4:22
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    I have never been "checked" by the US when leaving. Considering that outbound international flights often leave from the same US terminals as domestic flights (they just require your passport to check in to the flight), this would be a logistical nightmare to implement. Yes, the airline scans your passport, but this is not an immigration check, it's for the airline to verify that you will be allowed to disembark. The land borders are also another issue - building exit check facilities at all of them would cost millions of dollars and take months, plus hiring thousands of new officials. Aug 21, 2018 at 12:03

2 Answers 2


No, you will not have to physically go through immigration when you travel in a few months.

However, your passport details will be passed from the airline to the CBP. This information is kept in the I-94 database, and you can look up your own travel history at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.

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    Yes, I am aware of this detail. I think this is done so that the authorities can keep a track of who enters/leaves the country. Will this be done prior to my flight's departure? Or would the airline check and scan my passport, and then send this information?
    – user82261
    Aug 21, 2018 at 4:01
  • I don't know when the passport information is actually sent to CBP. Maybe that's why you need to check in a couple of hours before an international flight. That gives them time to check the no-fly list or other databases and stop you from getting on the plane if they want to. Aug 21, 2018 at 4:05
  • True. Let's see what happens. I spilled some water on my passport, and while it's dry, albeit a bit wrinkled now, there's no way for me to know if the machine-readable text would work or not. Hopefully, this shouldn't be an issue. A friend of mine told me they don't usually scan and check passports, but I wanted to double check.
    – user82261
    Aug 21, 2018 at 4:13
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    The airline checkin agents often use a machine passport reader, but they won't be concerned if the reader doesn't accept it - they will just type in the passport number instead. Aug 21, 2018 at 4:15
  • I am pretty sure that preliminary passport data are sent prior to the flight; that's certainly the case for incoming flights. A person's exit isn't recorded until the flight departs with that person on board, of course, so there has to be a final message sent at some point after the plane's door closes.
    – phoog
    Aug 21, 2018 at 4:27

The US has immigration controls on all international departures.

However these immigration controls are normally only carried our electronically. When you check-in for your flight (which for an international flight must be done at least 60 minutes before departure), the airline passes your details - including passport details - to US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who then share it will other groups such as US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

In most cases, DHS will notify the airline that they are OK to issue a boarding pass, however if for some reason they determine the passenger is not able to depart the country they can electronically block the issuing of a boarding pass, and force the airline or the passenger to contact DHS/CBP first.

Alternatively, CBP/DHS/TSA staff have the ability to carry out physical checks whilst passengers are boarding a flight, which is normally done on the jet-bridge to the plane (at a point where the passengers are normally not aware that these checks are occurring until they are already on the jet bridge and committed to boarding the flight).

In all cases, once the flight departs from the US, the airlines once again notify DHS which passengers departed on the flight (not including any that did not board, etc), at which point the various government departments are able to update records related to when the person departed the US.

So no you will not need to pass through physical immigration controls as you're probably used to in most countries around the world. Your passport will still be scanned, only by the airline at check-in rather than immigration officials. You ID will still be checked, once by TSA when passing through security, and a second time whilst boarding your flight.

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