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Some airlines (for example American Airlines) ask for "country of residence" during the booking process. However, the word "residence" has many different definitions in different contexts (i.e. immigration vs. de facto). During the booking process, what definition do airlines expect you to use? Should this be the place you are a legal permanent resident of? Or should it be the place you currently live, temporarily? Does this box have immigration implications or is it just to verify travelers' identity upon check-in?

An example screenshot of the booking form for American Airlines, showing a "Country / region of residence" field.

(In particular, I'm wondering how a US nonresident alien who lives in the US should answer this question. But I want a general answer rather than that specific situation.)

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  • How do you define de facto residence?
    – Relaxed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 7:03
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    @Relaxed in my (frequent) experience, if you put "United States" then they'll require you to put in your green card number. If you reside in the US as a nonimmigrant, you don't have a green card number. But if you haven't resided anywhere else than the US for over 20 years, what other country can you claim as your country of residence?
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:20
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    Cin316: do you mean "nonimmigrant alien" rather than "nonresident alien"? Some nonimmigrants who reside in the US are nonresidents for tax purposes despite having a physical residence, but tax definitions are not relevant here; the problem is the same for anyone who resides in the US through a nonimmigrant (or dual intent) status.
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:43
  • Actually, the whole time I was a nonimmigrant alien, I was considered a resident for tax purposes (when talking to immigration, depending on how an immigration officer felt, I was sometimes a resident, sometimes not). This was back pre-9/11 when Immigration and Customs were separate. When you drove across the border, you checked out the color of the officer's shirt (Customs wore blue, Immigration wore white). But, that whole time, I checked "US Resident" on forms like that. I had no residential ties to any other country (though even if I had, they would have been weak)
    – Flydog57
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:45
  • @Flydog57 in some nonimmigrant statuses, days of presence in the US are not counted for the purpose of the substantial presence test, so people in those statuses will mostly file nonresident alien income tax forms even if they spent the entire year in the US (if they need to file at all). I don't know whether this means that they can't take the resident customs exemption. That you were a tax resident implies that your nonimmigrant status was not one of these exempt statuses.
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 22:38

5 Answers 5

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Does this box have immigration implications or is it just to verify travelers' identity upon check-in?

What you put into that field doesn't matter in the slightest. As explained in the answer to For UK/USA bound flights, are details entered during online check-in, such as date of birth or passport number ever checked by airlines/immigration?, the only fields that actually matter during both the booking and the check-in process are First Name and Last Name. Every other field about the passenger could be completely wrong and you'll still be allowed on board.

So feel free to select any country where you consider yourself to be a resident and don't worry about choosing the "wrong" one.

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    This. In most cases it does not matter too much what you put on the reservation (vs. when checking TIMATIC), it is more for business intelligence purposes than anything else. (Caveat: there are places where residence is relevant to fare prices or eligibility for government subsidies where the residence may materially matter, but usually the definition would be provided)
    – xngtng
    Sep 12, 2022 at 16:10
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    (+1) Note that the question is not about check-in, it's about the booking. But your point is well-taken, this info shouldn't be set in stone. That is even when it does matter and you rely on being a resident somewhere to get allowed on board (say you would otherwise require a visa), you do get to correct the information at several steps in the process after booking and wouldn't be denied boarding because you made the wrong choice. Still not a reason not to pick the right one if you can help it, I guess.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:00
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    In my experience, if you claim residence in the US then you can't check in without a green card, and I have never been able to un-claim US residence online after having claimed it; only an agent at the counter could help. This was primarily with Lufthansa family companies, who may have been unfamiliar with the fact that only permanent residents of the US get anything that resembles a "residence permit."
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:30
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    @phoog I have a Green Card and it's still problematic unfortunately: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/174408/…
    – JonathanReez
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:51
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Country of residence is one of the many parameters used to determine whether you require a visa for your trip. It can definitely have immigration implications. It's especially relevant if you can document it (e.g. you have a residence permit) and you know that this exempts you from some visa requirement somewhere.

If you use TIMATIC, you will see you have to enter your country of residence. If it is indeed relevant, additional conditions (and especially what documentation may be required to establish your residence) should be detailed in the output.

I would therefore use “residence” in the immigration sense (and not any other legal definition). As explained in another answer, you should however get a chance to correct that later on. To the extent that residence does matter, it will be checked again later in the process.

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    But what exactly is residence in the "immigration sense". What do I use if I split my time equally over 3 o4 countries? What should digital nomads use?
    – Hilmar
    Sep 12, 2022 at 11:42
  • @Hilmar: you will have a main residence country, e.g. for taxes. if you are a true digital nomads, probable you have no "residence" (like seamen), and so one should select one of your nationality country (e.g. the one you would prefer to receive official documents, e.g. from lawyers). Sep 12, 2022 at 12:15
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    @Hilmar It depends on the country you're considering, what I mean by “immigration sense” is that you shouldn't consider the definition for, e.g., tax purposes, which can be different. If you split your time between several jurisdictions, equally or not, you have to consider each of them separately. It's also entirely possible to considered a resident in several places or none. In practice, in the scenarios I am alluding to it boils down to having some document like a residence permit, otherwise it's mostly irrelevant.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 12, 2022 at 12:27
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    @Hilmar if you are flying to the US, residence in the immigration sense means "US if you have a green card." In my experience, you cannot check in without a green card if you are not a US national and you claim residence in the US.
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:26
  • Not only a "green card". Before I got mine I had an H-1B and indicated that I was a US resident for both UK and Canadian visa applications and multiple international flights with various carriers. The ones which wanted more details were happy with my visa number.
    – brhans
    Sep 13, 2022 at 1:13
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According to the American Airlines FAQ, if you indicate your country of residence as USA and your nationality as something else, you'll be required to provide the US Resident Card information (source). By "US Resident Card" they mean green card (at least that's the opinion of the Internet here).

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    In my frequent (but not particularly recent) experience with other airlines, if you put "US" because that is actually where you live, but you don't have a green card and want to change the answer so they stop demanding your green card number, you can't, and you have to complete the check-in at the airport.
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:23
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It looks like there is no consensus on this question. Different carriers likely use “residence” to mean different things, as it is a poorly-defined word.

For my specific case, I contacted American Airlines support and they said “Country of residence” should be the place where you currently live, even if you are not a permanent resident of that country. They said it is not the country of residence for immigration purposes. So a nonresident alien living in the US should answer “United States”.

Edit: In my case, since it was a domestic flight, I called to confirm that the country of residence doesn’t really matter. Nonimmigrant aliens can answer “United States” as their country of residence.

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    not according to their FAQ on this very question
    – littleadv
    Sep 12, 2022 at 16:41
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    @littleadv then this answer is correct to say there is no consensus. I've certainly found that European airlines' websites seem to be unable to conceive of someone residing somewhere without a residence permit, but I'm a bit surprised to hear the same of a US airline.
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:33
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Country of residence is usually the country you reside in for long term. This can be due to variety of reasons. A person who resides in work visa, long term study visa, dependent visa, permanent residency and all counts towards that.

For instance, you are an Indian citizen, working in US using H1B visa will be considered a US resident (Not a permanent resident). The rules may be different for each country, but generally accepted practice is stay for more than 6 months for the last one year period.

As far as airlines are considered, residents have some exceptions or additional requirements they need to verify. Normally, residents don't need a return ticket or a proof of accommodation when boarding a flight to country of residence, provided they can establish that by showing appropriate visa. They may qualify for automated immigration gates, etc. This is to make job of check-in agents easier. For immigration officer, they will validate as usual, depending on your visa.

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    "you are an Indian citizen, working in US using H1B visa will be considered a US resident": but in my experience (as the spouse of a nonimmigrant resident of the US) some airlines, at least in Europe, have systems that assume that all alien residents of the US have a residence permit, and then seemingly on the basis of that assumption they demand a green card number, which of course a nonimmigrant cannot provide.
    – phoog
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:36
  • @phoog That seems to be a confusion between "resident" and "permanent resident" from the airlines part, deviating from the widely accepted definition. Sep 13, 2022 at 2:06
  • India will classify me as non resident, as soon as I hit 183 days outside the country. Sep 13, 2022 at 2:07
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    I think the problem is rather that there is no widely accepted definition. Different countries use the terms differently and issue different kinds of documents to people in different circumstances. Even if you consider the term in connection with one country only, it's very common for it to mean different things in different legal contexts, especially immigration as opposed to taxation. In most of the EU, a foreign resident needs a residence permit after 90 days or a year. The US has no such requirement, but European airlines seem to be unaware of this.
    – phoog
    Sep 13, 2022 at 7:13
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    @AndrewRay if the airline wants the truth then they should fix their system. On at least one occasion I was told to put the country of nationality as the country of residence. If the company instructs you to lie to their system then it is not in fact correct to say "you shouldn't lie just because the system can't handle the truth."
    – phoog
    Sep 13, 2022 at 20:25

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