I'm legally banned from the US and I need to get to Cost Rica or at least close to it. I can't find any direct flights from Ottawa or Montreal.

Will they arrest me if I land in the US for a flight transfer?
Will they see that I am banned?
Do they scan the passports?

  • So do you connect through Mexico? What % of flights from Canada to Mexico/Central America do not stop in the US? – smci Dec 28 '14 at 22:36
  • I voted against closing this question as duplicate: The situations seem to be quite different (“I am legally banned from the US” vs. “I am not banned from entering the USA for any amount of time”). – Relaxed Dec 29 '14 at 0:42
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    @Relaxed: It's quite similar in that both people are attempting to transit the US while being unable to enter the country. – lambshaanxy Dec 29 '14 at 1:54
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    You can fly from Toronto (YYZ) direct to Costa Rica on Air Canada. – John Zwinck Dec 29 '14 at 3:46
  • @jpatokal It's also similar in that both people are attempting to travel. Still a different question, though. – Relaxed Dec 29 '14 at 10:42

No, you cannot.

Unlike most other countries, the US does not allow transit passengers to change between flights without passing through immigration. So everyone arriving at a US airport has to have permission to enter the country.

(There may possibly be exceptions for "tech stops", where the plane lands to refuel but the passengers stay on board. But that's not what you asked about, and anyway tech stops are becoming rare these days.)

When you check in for your flight, the airline will require that you show proof that you are authorized to travel to the US: either US citizenship or residency, a valid visa, or an ESTA if your citizenship makes you eligible for a visa waiver. If you are banned from the country, you will not be able to get any of those, so the airline would not let you board (and might or might not refund the fare for your ticket).

If you did manage to get on the flight anyway, when you landed, you would have to pass through immigration, and they would find you do not have permission to enter the country. You would likely be deported back to your point of departure, or perhaps arrested (you'd have to consult a lawyer on that question).

In the special case of a flight coming from Canada: most major Canadian airports offer "preclearance", where you go through US immigration and customs at a station in your Canadian departure airport. So in this case, even if you somehow made it through check-in, you'd be stopped at the preclearance station before ever leaving Canada.

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