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I'm an American citizen and I've overstayed my visa in the UK (non-Schengen Area). I want to go home but I have some questions about traveling back.

I've looked at flights and, while I've found some out of London that go directly to the US, a lot of the ones I've come across have a layover in a Schengen Area country (including the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Portugal and Iceland).

These flights are much more affordable, but I'm concerned about having to pass through immigration when I transit through there. I don't want to put myself in a position where I'll possibly be denied entry and detained when I arrive due to my travel history (I'm also unsure if there'd be an exit check in the Schengen Area or if it would even be a problem if there was).

Another question of mine is, if I make a booking that requires me to change terminal in the Schengen Area airport, would that mean I would need to pass through immigration?

I just wanted to add, I use a website that allows you to purchase multiple flights in the same booking, so my bags would be checked through from the UK all the way to the US without me having to recheck them during transit.

As far as I understand, if I booked the flights individually, I would need to check my bags in the UK and then again when I arrived in the Schengen Area. I would have no choice but to pass through immigration at that point as I would need to leave the transit area in the airport.

So, am I safe to transit through the Schengen Area (even Iceland) to the US? I'm just trying to go home, but I can obviously expect scrutiny on an immigration standpoint. I'd rather avoid any issues if I can.

  • Note that there are a handful of websites (looking at you, Kiwi) that may sometimes offer to let you book multiple bookings in a single transaction, even with airlines that have nothing to do with each other and will not interline baggage. Most normal travel booking sites won't do that to you though. – Zach Lipton Sep 12 at 13:40
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if I make a booking that requires me to change terminal in the Schengen Area airport, would that mean I would need to pass through immigration

This depends a lot on the airport:

  • Some airports only have a single terminal, but even then, do not have airside transfers (I don't have an example in the Schengen area, but IIRC Luton in the UK is in this situation, so it wouldn't be surprising if other EU airports had similar arrangements, mostly smaller airports with lots of LCCs). If you have through-ticketing, this most probably does not apply.

  • Some airports with several terminals have airside transit between all terminals.

  • Some airports may not have airside transit at all between terminals.

  • Some airports with several terminals have airside transit between some of the terminals only (for instance CDG has airside transit between all parts of terminals 1 and 2, but does not have airside transit between T3 and the rest of the airport). If you have through-ticketing, the chances of this affecting you are usually slim, but you'll have to check the specific case to be sure.

If you have through-ticketing and you check that the airport indeed has airside transit in your specific situation, you won't be going through Schengen immigration at all. As a US citizen, you don't need airport transit visas either, so the only checks you will go through will be at check-in and at the gate in the UK and at the gate in the connection airport.

Of course, if you have two stops in the Schengen Area, this would require entering the Schengen Area even if through-ticketed.

If you do indeed have separate tickets, you would have to enter the Schengen Area to reclaim your bags and check them back in (before the check-in deadline). In addition to any immigration issues, this opens a whole can of worms when it comes to the time you need, and the risk of missing your connection if the first flight is late (the second airline would consider you a no-show and you would in most cases, especially for cheap tickets, need to rebook and pay for a new ticket, which can be very expensive at the last minute).

A final note: if you are booking a one-way ticket from the UK to the US, consider checking return tickets (with a return two weeks or more after the outbound). Even if you do not use the return leg, it may be a lot cheaper than the one-way alone on the same flight (but a lot less flexible).

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    Highly unlikely to be scrutinised by immigration officers even if they do go through immigration in Schengen. – BritishSam Sep 11 at 10:52
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What you might be overlooking is booking a ticket on a low cost airline to a US airport (and continuing from there on a different airline if necessary). For example, this is Norwegian from Gatwick to LAX (East Coast can be even cheaper):

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of course these prices (in GBP) do not include baggage or anything but still. You could also look at flying to Toronto directly, again from Gatwick. Try skyscanner.net for these kind of searches.

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