Is it possible to enter the US on a one-way ticket without any problems? I am coming over to help a friend sail his boat from mainland US to the Caribbean, so I am not sure exactly when I will be returning to the UK or from where. I have a valid ESTA and am traveling on a UK passport. What supporting documents are customs likely to ask for?

  • Purely FWIW. I have any number of times arrived in the US (when just a tourist) with only 1-way ticket; was never even asked. HOWEVER I have no clue if that is now all different with the ESTA-VOA system.
    – Fattie
    Oct 31, 2016 at 14:07
  • Would a single ticket open jaw booking be an option? Or would the US not see an open jaw as "proof of onward travel" (i.e. they're unable to infer the existence of the third leg)? Nov 1, 2016 at 1:00
  • @UnrecognizedFallingObject Yes, as long as the final destination is not Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean
    – Crazydre
    Nov 1, 2016 at 2:13
  • @Crazydre -- that'd be a good addition to your answer then :) Nov 1, 2016 at 12:58
  • I bought a ticket from Germany to Chicago and a return from Toronto. Would that be enough as a proof? I’ll be traveling to Toronto via Detroit tunnel bus which doesn’t offer advance tickets.
    – Artur
    Jan 15, 2023 at 14:41

4 Answers 4


You are required to be a possession of a return or onward ticket (Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean don't count unless you're a resident), and airlines are likely to deny you boarding if you don't have one (which they can see electronically), since it's written in Timatic (the above link), the database used by Airlines which is based on info from immigration authorities worldwide

Visa required, except for Passengers with a biometric British passport with nationality of British Citizen shown on the bio-data page. They must have an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and travel as a tourist, on business or in transit, for a maximum stay of 90 days. (SEE NOTE 60190) NOTE 60190: Passengers must hold a return/onward ticket.

However, the CBP (US immigration) is unlikely to ask for it unless they decide to examine you more closely for some reason.

You could buy a refundable return or onward ticket (though not to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean) to overcome this.

Again, though, it will probably mainly be the airline who asks for it. Having entered the US a number of times, I've been always been questioned a fair bit, and sometimes downright grilled, but never outright asked to show anything but my passport and APC receipt. Then again, it might be a different story if taken aside for secondary, which has never happened to me

  • If you'd like another official source (not that Timatic isn't great), see the ESTA FAQ. Entry under the Visa Waiver Program requires "a return or onward ticket." Nov 1, 2016 at 2:43
  • They haven't asked for proof of return in secondary from me. Just one data point.
    – user4188
    Nov 1, 2016 at 15:09
  • I'm wondering if a letter from the boat owner that you will be leaving with them would count. May 7, 2020 at 2:56
  • @chx as far as I remember, you weren't using the VWP but either entering with a B visa or as a visa-exempt Canadian citizen, so the statutory requirement for a "round-trip ticket" did not apply to you.
    – phoog
    Jul 24, 2021 at 4:55
  • @phoog ah. Yes, B visa at the time. I wasn't a citizen yet. I got a 10 year B visa a few months before Hungary became VWP eligible causing no small amount of issues over the years.
    – user4188
    Jul 25, 2021 at 7:33

Yes. I did (from Toronto to Chicago, as part of a wider journey stopping in NYC, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Chicago, Long Beach and San Francisco, all over about two and a half weeks). I even got a complete new 90 days at Toronto. Though this caused a bit of a grilling about my JFK entry stamp since the exit date was the wrong year (I actually asked the CBP guy at JFK and they said it didn't matter). I didn't however have to prove anything by showing tickets or anything like that (and certainly didn't have to pay bribes). I did have an onward ticket (San Francisco to Heathrow) but I can't see how Toronto would have known.]

Maybe this is different though because I was already in North America at the time? Also one-way transatlantic air tickets are a lot more expensive than return tickets.


I've seen it in a sense done--some of my wife's relatives were visiting (on a normal round trip ticket) and we took them up to Canada on a side trip. While that ticket was a round trip ticket the last leg was used to fly back to the US--while they still had valid tickets home the airline certainly didn't know about it and it's unlikely immigration did. Nobody asked.


Travel Agenies [at least in Germany] do not offer one-way tickets to USA for non-US citizens (not even to greencard holders). One-way ticket costs usually up to three times more than a roundtrip ticket. Nobody with common sense would pay this. Seems to serve the purpose that if an alien is found inadmissable into the U.S. upon arrival for whatever reason, he or she can instantly be put on the next airplane back to the country of origin. As I understand it, it's the airlines' policy to avoid a huge fine in case they boarded a passenger with inadequate travel documents, or records that might render him or her inadmissable.

  • This "one way tickets are more expensive" trope no longer seems to be the case. I flew one way from Geneva to New York a few weeks ago, because the round-trip ticket cost about twice as much as the one-way ticket. I suppose this change in the fare structure is probably attributable to the influence of the low cost carriers. They didn't ask about my nationality or immigration status before quoting the price, nor, as far as I remember, before selling me the ticket.
    – phoog
    Jul 28, 2021 at 1:38
  • Is it necessary to use a travel agency, or could you book your flight directly with the airline? Of course, you'd still want to confirm that the airline will fly you to the US under these circumstances, and they may require proof of your onward/return ticket before letting you board the plane if needed. Jul 28, 2021 at 2:03

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