Theoretically when you are past border control on an airport you are into no man's land. In that situation whose laws do I obey ?

  • 7
    As long as you are in the country you follow the laws of the country. Airport is not out of the country, it is an area with special rules for immigration.
    – Willeke
    Feb 13, 2016 at 23:05
  • 5
    Your theoretical theory is wrong. Where does the widespread presumption come from, that you are in 'no man's land' if you are e.g. in the transit area of an airport or between border checkpoints at a land border? Feb 13, 2016 at 23:09
  • 3
    Even in flight you are not in "no man's land", as you are governed by the laws of the country in which the aircraft is registered AND you are governed by the rules of the country whose airspace the aircraft is flying in at that moment.
    – user13044
    Feb 14, 2016 at 1:32

1 Answer 1


You are most definitely not in no-mans land in the international departures terminal. You are on the sovereign territory of the country until your foreign-registered aircraft's wheels leave the ground. Border control is purely for immigration purposes, and it only exists in countries that have active outbound controls (Canada, for example, does not).

The only law that really changes after border controls is that you have departed as far as immigration is concerned. If you have to leave by midnight, and you cross the line by midnight, they are happy. If your flight actually departs at 1am (or is cancelled) you don't get busted for overstaying.

Lets turn your situation around and look at the US pre-clearance process in Shannon, Ireland. Once you have passed US border controls you are administratively in the USA, and your flight can land at a domestic-only airport and not only a port of entry. But you are still in Ireland. Do something legal in the USA but not legal in Ireland and you will be arrested by the Irish police; the Americans will have nothing to say about it.

If you really want to be in no-mans land there is a rather bleak segment of desert between Egypt and the Sudan that is claimed by neither country. There are also parts of Antarctica under no jurisdiction.

  • 1
    And as a practical matter, if you commit a crime after your foreign-registered aircraft leaves the ground, they may well return to the airport and turn you over to the authorities there. Feb 14, 2016 at 1:21
  • Actually someone has claimed that patch of desert. Feb 14, 2016 at 2:35
  • @ZachLipton I think it should actually be "...until the foreign-registered aircraft leaves the country's airspace."
    – phoog
    Feb 14, 2016 at 7:52
  • @phoog: I am quite sure it is not. An airborne aircraft is under the jurisdiction of the country of registration and not the country of the airspace, in which it currently is. Feb 14, 2016 at 14:07
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo I'm sure I've been on flights that have delayed duty-free sales and/or alcohol sales until they've left certain airspace. These might have been alcohol sales on domestic US flights, though; it's been a long time and I don't remember the details.
    – phoog
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:24

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