I plan to into the United States (from New Zealand), where I plan to stay for a couple of weeks. I am then going to Canada, where I plan to stay for 3+ months.

Is my flight to Canada going to be acceptable to the airline (who will ask), and to US Customs (who might ask) as proof of onward travel?

I am not sure of when my return trip to New Zealand will be, so I'm not ready to buy that flight.

  • 3
    @ReddHerring actually, for the visa waiver program, a "round trip ticket" is a statutory requirement for travelers arriving by air, and the term is defined by regulation to include tickets that take the traveler outside of North America (or to the traveler's country of residence if that is in North America). In practice I suppose this would be fine, but strictly speaking it does not satisfy the requirements of the VWP.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 21:53
  • @ReddHerring By the time the Canada trip occurs, I'll have an outbound ticket from there. My concern is more the US part. What phoog has wrote is pretty much what I was concerned about. Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 22:09
  • @phoog - so it does specifically state "North America". I vaguely recalled (from about 6 years ago) that it was specific in that way, but was not entirely certain. Sounds like I should have a ticket that gets me out of Nth America, before entering US. Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 22:10
  • 2
    @phoog According to the document I originally read, an onward ticket is sufficient, but the CBP FAQ, which allows for an onward ticket, also specifies 'Travel does not terminate in contiguous territory...', so an onward ticket to Canada alone is not sufficient. To enter Canada the requirement for an onward ticket remains, so it looks like the OP will need to address that before arriving in the US. I've deleted my original remarks.
    – user90371
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 22:24
  • FlyingKiwi: the actual terms are IIRC "contiguous territory" (Canada and Mexico) and "adjacent islands" (Caribbean, Bermuda, probably St. Pierre and Miquelon, I don't remember exactly). "North America" is a convenient approximation. To be safe, you should indeed have such a ticket. @ReddHerring there is however the exception that a VWP traveler residing in Canada can use a ticket to Canada to satisfy the requirement, and "reside" remains undefined.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 5:30

2 Answers 2


This is my experience with traveling to US on one-way tickets and VWP.

When we moved to Mexico (from NZ) we had one-way to USA then onward tickets to Mexico (also one-way). We did not have return/round-trip tickets. We flew to USA on VWP.

  • These onward tickets were enough to satisfy the airline.
  • US customs didn't ask about tickets, they asked how long we were staying and where we were going next. We told them we were only staying a day then heading to Mexico.

The difference for me, though, is that we were moving to Mexico. This wasn't mentioned to the airline, they were happy with the onward ticket. We did mention it to US Customs (they asked if we were going to Mexico for vacation). As Phoog commented, this may not satisfy CBP requirements.

Our travel agent recommended we buy a fully-refundable flight to satisfy the onward ticket requirement, and this may be an option for you. Buy the refundable ticket for ~90 days after you arrive, then once you're into the US or Canada get it refunded (takes about a week) and buy your actual ticket.


The airline is going to check Timatic, a worldwide database of travel document requirements, when you check in, to ensure that your documents are sufficient for the countries you will travel to.

When they look you up, they will see, among a lot of other information, the following:

Visa required, except for Nationals of New Zealand with a biometric passport (with an electronic chip symbol on the cover) and an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). They must travel as a tourist, on business or in transit, for a maximum stay of 90 days. (SEE NOTE 60190)

NOTE 60190: Passengers must have a return/onward ticket.

If they keep looking, they'll see the following in the Additional Information section:

  • A return/onward ticket (or electronic ticket record) must be to a final destination country other than Canada, Mexico or contiguous (adjacent) countries or territories situated in or bordering the Caribbean Sea. If a passenger holds proof of residence in Canada, Mexico or a contiguous (adjacent) country or territory and is transiting the USA to that country or territory, then an onward/return ticket to that country or territory is accepted.

So if the check-in agent is on the ball, they will ask for you to provide either Canadian residence or an onward ticket from Canada. If they aren't paying much attention, because travel to the USA is so common, they might not ask, but you probably shouldn't count on this.

As for clearing US immigration, the actual regulations state that onward travel terminating in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean is not sufficient unless the traveler is resident in that country.

Applicants must arrive on a carrier that is signatory to a Visa Waiver Pilot Program Agreement and at the time of arrival must have a round trip ticket that will transport the traveler out of the United States to any other foreign port or place as long as the trip does not terminate in contiguous territory or an adjacent island; except that the round trip ticket may transport the traveler to contiguous territory or an adjacent island, if the traveler is a resident of the country of destination.

In practice, you're not likely to be asked about this, and even if you are asked, you are still likely to be OK. You'll most likely end up using a kiosk and having only the briefest conversation with an actual immigration officer.

If you have a temporary resident visa for Canada, such as a student or work visa, (as you plan to stay longer than three months, it sounds like you might do) then you are certainly OK as that will allow you to qualify for the noted exception. You'll show it to the airline to prove you have residence in Canada, and to the CBP officer if asked for it.

  • But the airline may ask about this. Usually they don't, because they know about your onward ticket, because it is their ticket. If the traveler has a one-way ticket, however, the airline should ask.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 5:31
  • @phoog You're right; I forgot he asked what the airline would do also. I've added that. Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 5:55

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