We will be traveling from Germany to USA and have 23 hour layover in Atlanta. I have an American Passport. The other travelers have German passports.

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    I'm very surprised that you have such a long layover at one of the busiest airports in the world. Even if there's only one flight a day from Atlanta to your destination, couldn't you have taken a different flight to Atlanta to better coordinate with that connection? Or flown via a different hub? Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 19:13
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    I am too!! But no there arent any that are cheaper. I waited to long to book the flight. All of the other flight from point A-C are the same. Since they are both very small airports. And I appreciate the edit.
    – OmamArmy
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 19:45
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    Related: Can I leave O'Hare airport during a layover? I suppose it's not technically a duplicate since one asks about Atlanta and the other about O'Hare, but the answer is the same for all U.S. airports.
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 2:46
  • Is there any way I can edit this question so it can be Generalized? Like "Am I allowed to leave a USA Airport during 23-Hour layover" So this question doesn't come up for every airport.
    – OmamArmy
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 7:24
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    @AustinW. Yes, you can absolutely edit it that way. And you may as well just say "during a layover", since it doesn't matter whether the layover is for 23 minutes or 23 hours. (OK, it would be hard to physically get out of the airport and back in 23 minutes, but you know what I mean. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Having an American passport usually means you are an American citizen. As such, you can enjoy unrestricted travel in the US.

The other travelers will have to be admitted to US before the start of the 23hr layover. If they are admitted, they also enjoy unrestricted travel.

Remember, that there are no transit zones in US airports. Immigration checkpoint is passed (usually) at the airport of the first entry.

So, yes you and your companions can leave the airport.

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    The Germans would need either to be qualified to use the visa waiver program or to be in possession of a suitable visa. Otherwise they won't be admitted. But since they have to clear immigration in Atlanta in any case, if the Germans are not admitted, they'll be sent back, unable to continue their journey, in which case being unable to leave the airport is going to be the least of their problems.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 15:03
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    I am not experienced with international travel, but I do know ATL. Last time I was there I cleared immigration (as a U.S. citizen) which put me in the unsecured portion of the airport. I actually had to go back through security to get to my next flight. If I had a long layover I (and anyone else) could have certainly left the airport.
    – user25889
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 16:55
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    US citizens, at least as of a few years ago, could enter Germany on a visa waiver. I had to transit Frankfurt, with a 12-hour layover, and the Admirals Club was groundside, so I have entry and exit stamps for Germany in my previous passport. I would be very surprised to learn that German nationals did not enjoy reciprocity on this. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 18:23
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    @JohnR.Strohm: The reciprocity that exists is the Visa Waiver Program. This exempts most Germans on straightforward business or tourist trips from needing a visa, provided they apply for an ESTA in advance -- but there are various ways a German can be ineligible for it, either based on the purpose of travel or because of his/her travel/immigration history or other citizenships. That's why Phoog thought it should be hedged a bit. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 19:44
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    @HenningMakholm: Thank you for the clarification. It sounds as though Germans simply transiting the US must apply for an ESTA anyway. I was not previously aware that there were no transit zones at US airports. (I thought I'd seen a transit lounge at DFW Terminal D, on the hallway that leads to Immigration, but I've never seen anyone actually in it.) Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 23:33

If you are transferring to another city in the US via Atlanta, then yes. You are going to go through immigration in Atlanta, after which you will be landside, i.e. you have essentially left the airport. So there will be absolutely no problem for you to leave the airport and do whatever you want, regardless of whether you are an American citizen.

If you are transferring internationally, the same applies. In the US, all transfers, domestic or international, requires passengers to go landside, passing through immigration checks. So nothing changes.

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