What are United Airlines' criteria for issuing a boarding pass to a passenger checking in online for a flight departing the US (to Germany, if it's relevant, with a connection to Croatia)? The passenger in this case has a Croatian passport, and was just told that the airline could not issue a boarding pass by the online check-in system. Why?

To be more precise, I am curious to know whether United will not issue the boarding pass without first confirming the traveler's immigration status in the US. I suppose it might also have to do with public health considerations in this time of COVID-19. But neither of us have much experience flying to Europe on US-owned airlines, so we do not know whether this is a usual or unusual occurrence.

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    I don't know that I have a real answer to your question, but my general experience is that online checkin for international travel to or from the US quite frequently doesn't work for no reason that I've ever been able to discern. United is unlikely to care about a passenger's US immigration status as they're leaving the US, but nothing is ever impossible.
    – mlc
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 0:44
  • @mlc thanks for your comment. My suspicion arises from two things: (1) the same traveler was required to scan her US visa at the kiosk when she checked in for a Delta flight leaving the US in 2016, and (2) anecdotes suggesting that at least some airlines will take exception to a dual citizen checking in for a flight leaving the US with a non-US passport, despite the fact that I do this all the time with non-US airlines and the airline has never said anything, so I wonder if the airlines in these anecdotes were US airlines..
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 2:55

2 Answers 2


I have the same issue every time with United.
I asked, they feel they have to verify your permission to come back to the US (as it is a round-trip ticket); so if you show them papers that allow you to come back, they will proceed with giving you a boarding pass.

This is airline specific, as others (for example, LH, Delta, AA) do not require this, and you can online check-in to Germany.

Also, on the return trip, United every time doesn't allow online check-in towards the US, same procedure. Again, LH does not require this and allows online-checkin.

There is no connection to your status with the airline, even as United Platinum member it doesn't work, whereas LH works with no membership at all. It's just how United decided to do things.


I have never heard of an airline checking a passenger's immigration status in the US for a departing flight. They have no reason to check, and their staff are not trained to understand the nuances of immigration statuses and various situations when one might be in between statuses, which are very complex.

I believe sometimes airlines will not issue boarding passes for departing international flights until you go to the airport, because they need to verify the person's passport information to report to the two countries' governments.

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    Delta's kiosk certainly required my wife to scan her US visa to check in for a flight from JFK to Dakar in 2016 (her passport is from a non-VWP country). If we hadn't been concerned about time, I might have tried to check in with my VWP-eligible foreign passport to see how it handled that, but as it was I used my US passport instead. I wouldn't think that they were doing a detailed assessment of anyone's status, but they don't do that for arriving passengers either. They do, of course, check arriving passengers' documents, and here they seemed to be doing the same for a departing passenger.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 3:37

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