32

Every time I leave Australia, I have to fill in an official form that the government collects to state that I've left the country.

However, when I left the US last week (after my first visit there), at no stage did anyone official verify that I was leaving the country. I checked in at the QANTAS desk at JFK and passed through TSA security there, and that's it. I got on a plane to LAX and then from LAX I didn't go through any checkpoints, and left the country. No immigration, no nothing.

Does the US government know that I've left the country?

  • 24
    Uncle Sam knows EVERYTHING about you ... – Maître Peseur May 22 '15 at 6:39
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    They monitor your facebook wall, twitter, gmail.. you must have written something there about leaving the US.. – Nean Der Thal May 22 '15 at 8:15
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    @IKeelYou sure, but I could write anything I wanted there. I could write about how I plan on overstaying my visa after I've already left the country. – Mark Henderson May 22 '15 at 9:51
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    @MarkHenderson just in case, it was sarcasm.. – Nean Der Thal May 22 '15 at 11:04
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51

Yes, they almost certainly do know you've left. The US processes passport details for all air passengers through a system called APIS, and ties that to the electronic I-94 (arrival and departure record).

You can check your US arrival and departure history online. This allows you to verify their record of your departure.

  • 9
    @MarkHenderson: If you don't board the plane, then you won't be on the airline's list of people who are on the plane. – user102008 May 22 '15 at 8:37
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    When I re-entered the US after a cruise, the only question the officer had on seeing my passport was whether I was flying home (to Canada) or driving. Flying? OK have a nice day. I was told later it was because they know when you leave if you fly, and if I had said driving I would have been given a form to hand in when I left. – Kate Gregory May 22 '15 at 11:21
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    Does the US maintain arrival and departure info on citizens (as opposed to foreign nationals, which appears to be what the I-94 system is for)? – Bob Jarvis May 22 '15 at 11:25
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    @BobJarvis Probably but that's a different discussion altogether. – Karlson May 22 '15 at 12:13
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    It is possible to leave the US without being "detected". For example, if you walk across Rainbow Bridge there is no opportunity to interact with CBP. The CBP know this, and you may get a bit of additional questioning next time you enter on the same passport, but it is not a big deal for an ESTA-eligible passport holder (in my experience). – Calchas May 22 '15 at 13:13
-1

I respectfully disagree with this accepted answer as far as U.S. citizens are concerned. I've traveled internationally to China as recently as five months ago and typing in my passport information on the CBP link yields no results.

This didn't surprise me because unless they generated a record based on my airline ticket purchase, there was no electronic reading of my passport or recording of my passport number at any point leaving or returning to the U.S.

It's my understanding that the U.S. doesn't care about citizens leaving or returning. Furthermore, I'd even speculate they don't care about non-citizens leaving. They only care about non-citizens entering.

  • They also care about non-citizens on limited duration visas overstaying, but it is up to the visitor to make sure there is some evidence they left on time. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 5 at 21:24
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    “The I-94 website [...] provides you with your most recent I-94 admission record and a limited travel history.” since you presumably hold a US passport, you did not enter the US with an I-94 form, so your travel history is not available on i94.cbp.dhs.gov. Your passport details were forwarded to DHS when you checked in by the airline for your outbound leg, and were collected by both the airline in the form of API and by US CBP on your return. – Calchas Aug 5 at 21:57
  • @Calchas I checked mine, and it shows my recent departures and arrivals correctly. The last time I had an I-94 was in the 1970's, before I got my green card. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 5 at 23:07
  • @PatriciaShanahan interesting. I am surprised that it shows your travel history as an LPR. It really seems like it ought not to, given the right of unlimited stay that LPRs have, not to mention the lack of an I-94 form. It certainly does not show mine as a US citizen. The site itself says that it does not contain US citizen travel history, if I recall correctly, so Jason should be unsurprised at not finding his there. – phoog Oct 6 at 3:37
  • @phoog I didn't know whether it would record me, but it does make some sense. I can lose LPR status if I stay outside the US too long or establish residence somewhere else. My travel history, absences of 2 to 3 weeks separated by months to years in the US, is consistent with maintaining US residence. Your right to enter the US is unconditional, regardless of travel pattern. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 6 at 4:20
-1

there is a lot of misinformation going on. It used to be anyone can leave and they would not know when you left until you declare it yourself on the paper form when flying in or crossing land border. Things are much different these days since we know have computers and unlimited databases to store everything. By Plane or Cruise ship they know when you left and when you arrived by the ship's manifest and electronic information from security checks on your passport and boarding pass. They know this on everyone including citizens. They also take a photo of you at airline check-in and keep that too for some time, non citizens about 14 days, citizens the duration of the flight out or up to 8h. Land crossings may be different but they do share info with Canada maybe even Mexico and they now have facial recognition cameras and are installing more to keep records as well. Even if you are a US citizen everyone leaving the country with more than 10KUS$ must by law declaire it at both entry and departure. They do have agents with money sniffing dogs, the TSA scanners that detect not only weapons but drugs and currency which would be enough for them to stop you at departure and may even confiscate all your money if they do not like you or you give them a hard time. TSA works closely with CBP. Only thing i think it may be virtually impossible for them to track you is if you leave by private boat but may be boarded by coast guard (certainly they will track you by radar) or you cross into mexico or Canada illegally where there is no wall.

-4

Hopefully they don't care, unless you're a "person of interest" to someone. That may unfortunately be way too often the case now with all of the overblown NSA tracking of everyone etc. And the NSA did absorb the US Customs service, so unfortunately they might.

But for normal purposes, they only really care when someone enters, or when someone gets involved in a legally significant event, such as a crime or accident, or working for wages.

If you show up, and then never do anything legally significant, only the most paranoid elements care when/where you left.

  • 1
    Without supporting evidence, this answer is not very useful. – Nate Eldredge May 23 '15 at 17:39
  • Ok. I sent an email to US Customs asking. I'll update my answer when I get one from them. – Dronz May 23 '15 at 17:53

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