What are my exit options if I enter a country illegally and try to leave?

Say by crossing a border, could I just fly/drive to other countries or will I be detained at the airport/border gate, or imprisoned and returned to my country of nationality/current residence?

Specifically Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • 4
    This really depends greatly on the country. Some countries may not have comprehensive checks, and you might get away with it. In other countries you might be allowed to leave but be given a ban. Other countries impose fines, and you might be prevented from leaving until you pay. Imprisonment isn't impossible in some countries. Do you have a specific country in mind? May 20, 2019 at 7:03
  • yes Iraq or afghanistan; May 20, 2019 at 7:06
  • 1
    In those cases, disappearing into the hands of the US military is another possibility. May 20, 2019 at 8:09
  • @MichaelHampton or UNHCR.
    – phoog
    May 20, 2019 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Since you will be boarding an international flight and leaving the country you will typically need to pass through a passport control check on the departure airport.

What will happen there is highly dependent on your own nationality as well as the country you entered illegally, but you can expect that your passport will be inspected by an official and your illegal immigration status will almost certainly be discovered.

Since I can only speculate I won't say anything about the consequences of such a discovery.

Please note that airlines may also deny you boarding if and when you don't have a valid visa for your destination.

  • 3
    Lot's of countries don't have exit checks, e.g. UK and US. Right about boarding staff, they wont let you fly to the next country if you don't have the right documents to enter.
    – BritishSam
    May 20, 2019 at 9:47
  • @BritishSam It's actually quite unusual not to have exit checks, off the top of my head I'm only aware of the UK and the North American triumvirate of US, Canada and Mexico. May 20, 2019 at 11:17
  • @jpatokal To be fair US is one of my top destinations, I know Schengen has emigration checks if leaving Schengen, will that change when they launch their version of an ESTA and use flight data instead?
    – BritishSam
    May 20, 2019 at 12:19
  • @BritishSam I doubt the Schengen area will abandon exit checks. There's certainly no legislation in place to do that. In addition to ETIAS, which does not apply to people with visas, they're planning an electronic entry-exit system, which will do away with passport stamps. But I expect they will continue to scan passports at an exit checkpoint, whether by an officer or at an automated gate.
    – phoog
    May 20, 2019 at 16:48

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