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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?

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    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
  • @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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45

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.

  • Interesting. I'm guessing that if I check in, but never board the plane, then that information would also be passed through to the system, rather than having a standalone immigration system like I'm used to. – Mark Henderson May 22 '15 at 5:22
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    @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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    @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
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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.

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    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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