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My girlfriend is currently in America working at a summer camp, and I am due to fly there in a few weeks from the UK. She will meet me at the airport, and we plan to travel down the East Coast starting in NYC and ending in Miami. We have booked the first few nights in a hotel, but have not booked anything else apart from our flights back (from Miami).

I have already got my ESTA. I have been to the USA before, but never alone. This is my first ever solo flight so I'm quite nervous when it comes to border control.

Am I going to get grilled by the CBP officer for:

  1. being a lone traveler,
  2. and not having booked any other hotels?

I have made an itinerary of where we are going and ideas of hotels we might stay in, as I was told this might help.

  • 11
    Why could alone travelling be a problem? I mean, what in particular are you afraid about? I travel alone 90% of the time and never had any issues because of it. – Kuba Aug 1 '17 at 12:14
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    98.3%, your entry will be unremarkable. Since you've been to the US before, you probably qualify to use Automated Passport Control which can result in few to no questions at all. – Johns-305 Aug 1 '17 at 16:14
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    Just make sure you don't look like Lone Wanderer and you should be fine. Immigration officers really hate it when you come to them with a gun and a dog. – Dmitry Grigoryev Aug 1 '17 at 20:42
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    Being young and bringing 'tools' that you could earn money with may get additional attention- for example if you bring a guitar and you are a musician. But being a lone traveler is not itself much of a red flag. Lots of people travel alone by choice or necessity, and you've already been vetted to a large degree. – Spehro Pefhany Aug 1 '17 at 20:53
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    They mainly want to know that you won't overstay your visa, take employment, or burn down the White House. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '17 at 21:56
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Being in my lower twenties, I've never been grilled either at JFK, ORD or LAX (the latter of which was after the VWP extra security measures were implemented), and I was travelling alone for plain tourism.

What I've been asked is:

  • Where I'm going
  • For what purpose
  • For how long
  • Why I'm travelling now out of all times.
  • What I do at home
  • How I, a student, could afford the trip
  • When I was in the US last time
  • For how long that was
  • If I know anyone in the country.

That's it, never been asked anything besides that, not even where I'll be staying (which is stated in the ESTA), and above all, I've never been asked to show any documents besides my passport and customs form (first visit) or APC receipt (subsequent visits). Not that I had anything else with me either (I rarely bring booking confirmation printouts with me).

I recommend you use an APC kiosk at JFK (I assume you're entering the US there?), because anecdotal evidence suggests you'll get asked fewer questions (although that wasn't the case for me at ORD or LAX).

Furthermore, if you truly feel uncomfortable, you can always call the CBP at JFK and ask (1-718-487-5164 or 1-718-553-1643). Be 100% honest and detailed about the situation.

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    Once entering the USA I was asked in detail about why I had visited every country whose stamp I had in my passport. That may be an extreme case but it's one for your list. – A Simmons Aug 1 '17 at 17:10
  • @ASimmons I see! My passport had no non-US stamps upon these entries (had I not used my ID card in countries like Bosnia, Moldova, Turkey and Georgia, though, it would have had a LOT more). Now it's got Azeri and Kazakh stamps (one visit each) as well as a Russian visa with stamps on it. – Crazydre Aug 1 '17 at 17:12
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No. Nobody cares about you moving around to different - yet undefined - hotels, or about arriving alone - many travellers arrive alone, and travel around.

The questions will focus on 'are you going to leave as promised within the period of your visa-free stay?' - meaning they might inquire about your situation at home - do you have family, a house, a job, a return flight, etc. They try to find out what the chances are that you plan to stay in the country illegally, and if they think so, they will deny you entry. If you are convincing that you plan to fly back home, you will have no issues.

P.S. if you mention that you'll meet with your girl friend, make sure to mention that she is not from the US, but will fly back with you to your home country. Having a US girl friend can look like you might just stay with her forever.

  • This answer is incorrect, the basic premise of focusing solely on leave time is wrong while @Crazydre 's answer is correct. What you answer misses is the questioning will also focus on whether you intend to work illegally, but they won't ask that directly. If you look at Crazydre 's list of questions (which is correct) a good half of it is about that: how can you afford this trip, what purpose etc. – chx Aug 2 '17 at 12:41
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I've been many times as a solo traveller. I've been asked:

  • where I was staying my first night (guy in front of my wrote down the hotel from Pretty Woman!). It's on the form when you enter.

  • what I was doing in the previous country (especially when I'd come on my own from Colombia(!))

  • when I was leaving (they sometimes want proof of an exit ticket. A bus ticket to Mexico or Canada is sufficient).

I've never been asked why I was travelling solo, and aside from the first night's accommodation (which they actually looked up once to see if it was real), they've never asked further than this.

Travelling solo is more common than people think. It's what many months of my travel has been. Enjoy it!

  • I think a bus ticket from Miami to Canada or Mexico might be a little more suspect, though. ;) I think OP's plane ticket will be a little more believable. – reirab Aug 1 '17 at 16:45
  • @reirab I flew into Orlando (that Colombia trip) with a bus ticket to Toronto ;) – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Aug 1 '17 at 22:47
3

There shouldn't be a problem unless you have other issues. Your not likely to be asked anything more then

  • What your purpose for visiting?
  • How long will you stay?

There may be other questions but they will be very simple like that. Just remember to only answer what your asked. Don't give while stories and keep it as short as you can.

What your purpose for visiting? - Site seeing.
How long will you stay? - Two weeks.

That's probably it. They might ask:

Where do you plan to stay? - Hotels along the route.

  • I have been asked where I will stay, with who, how and when we met, what's my job, her job, if I was looking for a job, how much money I had... Btw I don't know why he asked so many questions (no issues AFAIK) and I didn't feel welcomed ! Be ready for 20 questions and feel lucky if it stops at 3. – Guillaume Aug 2 '17 at 9:34
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Unless you have any other adverse immigration issues outstanding that you haven't mentioned, you are unlikely to have any problems at the border.

I visited the US in 2016 in fairly similar circumstances as you, lone traveller, first nights hotel booked, return flight 3 weeks later. I was asked the purpose of my visit and upon giving it (attending conference and then travelling) I was then asked if I had any documentation related to my visit, I said no (I hadn't anything printed out, just emails I probably couldn't access there) and immediately thought this was going to be a problem.

The immigration official just stamped my passport anyway and let me through, the entire process was 2 or 3 minutes at the booth.

Remember, you have gone through a layer of vetting already by getting the ESTA, and while it isn't a visa, you can bet it's considered in the visa grant process at some point.

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    I know it feels like a technicality, but for entry under the visa waiver program there isn't actually a visa granted at any point. You're just allowed entry (or occasionally not). – origimbo Aug 1 '17 at 13:33
  • The last sentence is tautological. Having an ESTA is a requirement for entry under the VWP so the things you wrote in your ESTA application have already been considered. But everybody who shows up at the US border by plane for admission under VWP has an ESTA, so there's nothing more to consider, in that regard. – David Richerby Aug 1 '17 at 16:52
  • @DavidRicherby thats sort of my point... – Moo Aug 1 '17 at 20:54
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I’ve literally just came back from New York as a lone traveller. As long as you have you an ESTA, you should be fine. I wasn’t asked for any details on accommodation etc.

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