39

I am an Indian citizen who holds a student residence permit in Germany alongside with a US tourist visa and I intend to fly to the US for my vacations. Apparently, the flight I booked departs from the Netherlands and since the airport is only a couple hours of bus ride away from my place, I picked that option because I was getting a really good deal on the flight with free luggage.

However, I am wondering that when I arrive at the US port of entry, will I be looked at suspiciously by the US CBP because I flew from a country other than where I have a residence permit from? They might think that since I live in a city where there is a large airport, why did I preferred to fly out of a different country? Any opinions? Or am I just worrying unnecessarily?

  • 15
    It can't hurt to keep evidence like the bus ticket stub or receipt so if asked you can prove where you left from. – user71659 Dec 28 '18 at 1:59
  • 11
    Only if you fly from countries of specific concern, such as Iran or Yemen. Otherwise they don't really care. – Michael Hampton Dec 28 '18 at 2:14
  • 1
    You're completely in your rights and documented. Take anything in stride, keep all your backup paperwork, be honest, but give yourself just a few extra minutes planning time so you aren't stressed if there is a delay (which can happen to anyone). – Mikey Dec 28 '18 at 20:16
  • 12
    Keep in mind US immigration has heard of Schengen, and is familiar with the concept of a marvelous customs union where a mid-2-digit number of States have freedom of movement, freedom of commerce, and common currency amongst them. – Harper Dec 29 '18 at 3:59
  • 2
    And the airport at Maastricht is officially called Maastricht Aachen Airport, which shows how thin these borders are nowadays. – Mr Lister Dec 29 '18 at 11:05
103

since I live in a city where there is a large airport, why did I preferred to fly out of a different country?

If anyone asks you that, just answer the question honestly. "I was getting a really good deal on the flight with free luggage" is a perfectly good reason for doing this.

am I just worrying unnecessarily?

Yes. Relax and have a good trip.

  • 5
    I live in the United States, and when flying internationally I will often drive farther than the OP to an airport with much better options (though still staying in Texas!). The immigration officer shouldn't be surprised at all by this. – chrylis -on strike- Dec 28 '18 at 4:46
  • 44
    @Nij Some Canadians drive hundreds of miles to fly out of U.S. airports because the cost difference is so great. It's hardly an alien concept to Americans. – choster Dec 28 '18 at 7:16
  • 3
    Agreed. Repositioning to get cheaper flight prices happens all the time. I've flown hundreds of miles to Canada in order to get a much better price on a trip to Asia - amusingly enough, on a U.S. carrier, connecting back through the U.S. This kind of stuff happens all the time and immigration won't care. Just tell them the truth that you found a better fare that way. Also, people commonly happen to be in a country other than their home country before flying to a third country. I've done that loads of times and it's never been a problem as long as I told the truth about why I was there. – reirab Dec 28 '18 at 7:57
  • 13
    @Nij In Europe, driving to the next country over can be an extremely short trip. Hell, you could drive from Cologne, Germany to Amsterdam, Netherlands and then to Brussels, Belgium in 5 hours. That's less time than it takes me to drive to the nearest large city in my state (Texas) that offers decent prices on airplane tickets. Any CBP officer asking why you flew out of a different country (which they probably wont ask) will understand if you just say "it was a 3 hour drive to save money on the flight and free luggage". – Doc Dec 28 '18 at 17:09
  • 4
    There are quite a few US / Canadian citizens living very close to the border, but within the Schengen zone people can drive to another country without even noticing that there is a border. – gnasher729 Dec 28 '18 at 22:45
35

In my experience, the United States CBP agents don't typically consider where you're flying in from for immigration purposes; it's much more important for goods importation, custom duties, etc (the "customs" part of Customs and Border Patrol). At airports, the focus is definitely more on immigration, and for immigration purposes, your country of citizenship and residence are much more important.

More broadly, the CBP does realize the realities of modern travel; a traveler could easily be coming from Frankfurt and flying from Germany, the UK, or the Netherlands after a train transfer. I don't think you'll have any problems.

  • 3
    +1. Note that even in Europe many cities (even countries!) have no airport with a direct flights to USA. So travelers originating from them would all arrive in USA from a "different" airport. This is common. – George Y. Dec 28 '18 at 1:34
  • Also, you might have direct flights from a smaller Airport to New York, but not to Boston. So if you want to go from X to Boston, you might have the choice X -> Y -> Boston, or X -> New York -> Boston, where Y is any larger airport nearby X. – gnasher729 Dec 28 '18 at 22:48
  • @GeorgeY. But passengers living in, e.g., Slovenia who fly from Ljubljana to New York via e.g. Frankfurt or Amsterdam present slightly different circumstances from those here in that the records sent by the airline to CBP will show that their initial point of departure was in their country of residence. – phoog Mar 18 at 0:03
17

As a citizen of India, you are quite right to worry about such things. Immigration officials generally speaking do give a hard time to Indians, especially in Europe. However, in my experience, travelling to the USA, with valid documentation (visa, financial support, place of residence, travel plans) is much less bothersome than Europe.

In your case, since you got your visa from your current place of long term residence, you should be fine as long as you have the remaining documents mentioned above.

14

In my many years of traveling and crossing borders, I had a similar experience only once although in Russia and not the US.

I live in Germany and I am an Indian citizen as well. The border control police in Russia asked me why I applied for my visa from India when I live in Germany and traveled to Russia from Germany.

My answer was just as someone suggested, honesty. I said, I was having a long vacation in India when I had planned to visit Russia. Additionally, the visa cost in India was much cheaper. The official stamped me immediately.

Border control people are well trained to catch lies. Your one lie may lead to many and cause unwanted problems eventually. So, in an odd scenario if you are asked, just speak the truth.

  • 2
    There are cases where you can only apply from your home country (one I know was a Thai citizen not able to visit Spain from the UK). – gnasher729 Dec 28 '18 at 22:49
  • Absolutely. I think in the case of Russia, someone also told me you can only apply at the country of residence + the home country. Nevertheless, I feel the border control people very well know about their country's visa issuing regulations. – trollster Dec 29 '18 at 10:28
  • This is a great answer from experience. Another thing to consider is that perhaps the border officer wants to determine whether your travel patterns reflect some illegal activity (smuggling, perhaps). If you seem evasive, your answer is unlikely to cause the officer to abandon that suspicion. But if you answer honestly with your reasonable explanation, the officer will normally be satisfied and admit you without further delay. – phoog Mar 18 at 0:03
7

Do not worry. Even if this was a concern, countries in Western Europe are so tightly linked both geographically, politically and in terms of infrastructure, that in such matters they play almost like various states in the US.

6

I agree that US immigration is unlikely to be concerned about why you flew from the Netherlands, however be aware that the US Customs form asks for "countries visited on this trip prior to US arrival". In this case you would list Netherlands as well as Germany, even if your "visit" amounted to driving through it to get to the airport.

  • A resident of Germany shouldn't normally have to list Germany as a "country visited" in the customs form. But you are correct that in this case the traveler should list the Netherlands. – phoog Mar 18 at 0:05
  • phoog - agreed, if Germany was already in the "Country of Residence" box that is not needed in "Countries visited". I missed the "residence" and just saw "Indian citizen" in the question. – Dragonel Mar 18 at 16:31
5

Consider all these scenarios:

  • I live in Germany, went to the Netherlands for some reason (business, tourism, visiting friends or family...). Then I flew to the US.

  • I live in Germany, took a flight with a connection in the Netherlands because it was cheaper

  • I live in Germany, took a train or bus to the Netherlands and a flight to the US from there because it was cheaper

They’re all perfectly legitimate, and all end up with you arriving in the US from the Netherlands even though you live in Germany. It is definitely not a red flag. CBP officers may ask the question, and as others have said, just answer truthfully. Many of those questions are just to check if you are indeed the person you say you are and have a consistent story, not much more.

So, yes, you worry too much.

  • In the second case, though, unless the flight to the Netherlands was on a separate ticket, the CBP officer would see that the passenger had connected from a flight from Germany. – phoog Mar 18 at 0:07
5

The only thing which is more likely in this scenario is that you will get selected for a secondary inspection at your departure airport (the famous "SSSS" on your boarding pass). When you do an online checkin and you don't get a boarding pass at that time, it might be an indication that this happened. I personally would make sure that i arrive a bit earlier at the airport just to not be stressed if security takes a bit longer.

  • "When you do an online checkin and you don't get a boarding pass at that time, you know that this happened." Delta now does not give online boarding passes to anyone in the cheapest booking class. No SSSS involved. At least on flights from the US. – Vladimir F Jan 1 at 17:14
  • There are many reasons not to be able to get a boarding pass. SSSS is just one of them. – Calchas Jan 1 at 21:32
  • Rephrased a bit. – dunni Jan 1 at 21:41
  • Why would this travel pattern make SSSS more likely? – phoog Mar 18 at 0:06
4

U.S. immigration officers don't care about what you did before coming to the US (unless it's something illegal), and they practically care only about what you are going to do in the US.

In your case, it is of no concern. The agent would probably assume that you transited in the Netherlands, and CBP agents couldn't care less about your original airport (unless it's Yemen or Syria, of course). They see, for example, lots of Filipinos coming from Tokyo, or Indians coming from Hong Kong, and would just assume they've got an itinerary with a transit. So, no, this isn't very unfamiliar to them.

  • 1
    Although you're broadly right, I think you're perhaps forgetting that what someone did before going to the US is almost all the information that a border agent has to go on when trying to guess what the visitor is going to do in the US, since they cannot tell the future. What is their history? Have they a suspicious history? This is all pertinent information. In this case though it's not a suspicious history so everything's fine. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 28 '18 at 14:02
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Rather, I should say that US immigration officers care about your past history outside of the country only if it has something to do with your stay in the US (e.g. do you have means to support yourself, are you likely to commit a crime, etc.) However, flying from a different country is certainly not one of those. Flying from Schiphol does not make me more likely to commit a crime than someone flying from Frankfurt, for example. – xuq01 Dec 29 '18 at 5:32
  • Indeed, exactly. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 29 '18 at 18:10
  • CBP have access to the full PNR for the inbound journey, but they don't seem to know how long each transit point is. If you took advantage of those excellently priced full flex Cairo-originating fares following the float of the Egyptian pound in 2016, you'll know what I mean. Lots of questions like "why did you come from Cairo today?" "Cairo? I haven't been there for three months." "Looks like you started your trip there" In the end, once you say "I'm an airmiles junkie" their concern about you being terrorist turns into pity at your poor choice of hobby. – Calchas Jan 1 at 21:24
  • 1
    @xuq01 As far as I understand, they see the whole booking, and it looked like I was coming from Egypt that day. Which I was, but I had a several month stopover in my home city first. – Calchas Jan 4 at 14:03

protected by JonathanReez Dec 28 '18 at 10:09

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.