I will be travelling to Buffalo, NY via Qatar airlines from Malaysia. Its like K.Lumpur -> Doha -> JFK, NY -> Buffalo, NY. I'm flying under a code sharing flight between Qatar n Jetblue from JFK to Buffalo. Do I have to reclaim my luggage n re check all over again upon my first arrival at JFK airport?

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    Short answer: Yes, you do. – Nate Eldredge Jul 13 '14 at 17:37

That is how the US system operates. You clear immigration and customs at the first place of arrival. You need your luggage to pass through customs, thus you must recheck your luggage. In my experience it has always been tagged to it's final destination, rechecking simply involves dropping it at counter or sometimes just a belt. I've never waited more than 30 seconds at that only when there was an equipment malfunction.

The US does not have any outgoing border controls, period. The only reason you have to even show a passport to get on an international flight is because the airline doesn't want to get in trouble for bringing an inadmissible passenger to the destination. In the time before the security crackdown that followed 9/11 you could walk right up to an international departure gate without a passport. Even these days I have walked from an international departure gate to outside the airport (showing nothing at all) and back (showing my passport and boarding pass--but ID and boarding pass would have been fine.)

Because of this there is no way to handle transit passengers. You can't keep them from walking away from the gate, thus you have to actually admit them before you let them get to that gate.

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  • The last two paragraphs seem to be irrelevant to the question and therefore confusing. The question is not asking about transit through a US airport to a different country. – Ari Brodsky Jul 13 '14 at 18:43
  • The US absolutely DOES have outbound border controls. Whilst it's true they do not have specific outbound physical immigration checks, all passengers and all baggage is security screened, and all passenger are electronically checked using information provided by the airlines using APIS. – Doc Jul 13 '14 at 19:42
  • @AriBrodsky Transit to another country or transit to another airport within the country--you need the same facilities, although in the latter case the destination airport must also have immigration and customs facilities. – Loren Pechtel Jul 13 '14 at 22:03
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    @LorenPechtel No, I'm not. For example, read the section entitled "Outbound: Air, Land and Sea" at dhs.gov/news/2012/09/11/… The fact that you don't see any such checks (other than occasional "random" checks, which normally aren't random!) doesn't mean that they don't exist. – Doc Jul 13 '14 at 22:13
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    @LorenPechtel Even though the inbound you do go through same facilities going to Buffalo doesn't involve anything close to what will need to be done for the out of the country flight, so let's not confuse the issue. The issue here is that JFK is the port of entry to the country not just transit. – Karlson Jul 13 '14 at 23:44

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