The first time many travellers think about proof of onward travel is when they’re at the airport check-in and the check-in staff ask to see their ticket out of the country. If you’re on a two-week vacation of a definitive timed stay, this is usually easy, because you have your flight home. If you’re on an around the world trip, or a digital nomad it is often harder. While we’ve planned to go to countries, our exit from them is usually a little less planned – I mean we know we’ll leave before our visa ends, but what happens if we want to stay 3 months instead of 2 months is usually the way the conversation goes. However, after a couple of close calls, it’s in our pre-travel checklist for EVERY country we enter, no matter how we enter it – land, sea or air. Here’s everything you need to know about proof of onward travel and how to provide it – even if you don’t quite know when you’ll be leaving.
What is Proof of Onward Travel?
Proof of onward travel is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a ticket out of the country to prove that you will be leaving and not staying indefinitely on your tourist visa. Proof of onward travel isn’t some irritating annoying airline rule. It’s a way of their government enforcing rules to make sure you don’t stay around after your visa expires. If you’re travelling in on an aeroplane, then the government requires that airline company to enforce the rules, otherwise the airline may be required to return you to your point of origin.
Entering on a tourist visa? Lovely, now tell us how you plan to go, and when – just so we know that you won’t run out of money and not be able to afford to leave.
Lets cut to the chase – here’s the easiest way to get proof of onward travel – with Onward Ticket – legitimate, easy and cheap > Buy your onward ticket here.
Some countries even require that you have proof of funds to support yourself during your stay – giving suggested amounts of cash you should hold, or funds in a bank account or at the very least, be able to present a credit card.
What Proof of Onward Travel is NOT
Proof of onward travel is simply that. Proof that you are leaving the country. It is NOT a ticket to take you back to your home destination. (although in order to obtain a Chinese visa rather awkwardly you need to show this!). So your ticket can be to a neighbouring country, it doesn’t have to be your home base.
Your proof of onward ticket can be an airline ticket, it can be a ferry ticket, a bus ticket or a train ticket.
Why do you need proof of onward travel?
Proof of Onward travel tends to be laws enacted by the country that you’re visiting to enforce their immigration policies. So governments don’t want you entering the country on an innocuous tourist visa, deciding you like it, but needing to work or get more money and then not leaving – either because you can’t afford it, or because you’ve decided you’ve got a better life there. If you decide you like a country enough to want to live there, then you obviously need to go through the proper immigration channels and apply for the appropriate visa.
How is Proof of Onward Travel Enforced?
You’re usually more aware of the requirements for proof of onward travel when you’re at the airport, flying in on a one-way ticket. When you check in your airline asks you for the details of your next destination. And the ticket. Or Reservation. In recent years many countries that enforce proof of onward travel have passed on the responsibility to the airlines.
Proof of Onward Travel Enforcement at the Airport
And that’s why the airline asks you at check-in. If you’re refused entry to the country when you get there, then your usual route is to head back to your point of origin. Thus, if proof of onward travel is required, then the airline will deny you access to the plane unless you have it. This is the reduce/remove their liability and ensure that if you ARE denied entry to your new country, you’ll have to pay to fly somewhere else, rather than the airline taking you there at their cost!
Proof of Onward Travel Enforcement at Land Borders
If you enter a country over a land border you may also be asked for your ticket out of the country but it will be the immigration officer asking you for your proof of onward travel. We’ve never been asked for the actual ticket, but we have been asked on many occasions where we are going afterwards, and how we are planning to get there. (our rule is always have a plan… even if you don’t have a ticket!)
Proof of Onward Travel Enforcement at River/Sea Borders
We’ve crossed into countries on ferries and boats too. Immigration rules apply whichever way you enter a country, so you’re just as likely to be asked how you’re leaving if you enter on a ferry. Again, we might not have a specific ticket, but we always have an answer for how, when and where we’re leaving.
What Countries Require Proof of Onward Travel?
The list of countries that require proof of onward travel depends on what passport you hold. Rules might be different for me as a British passport holder to you as a say Indian passport holder. There’s also the fact that while there may be a law saying that proof of onward travel is required, it may not always be enforced.
The best way to find out if a country that you are visiting requires proof of onward travel is to check with the relevant department in your government. That department is the one which provides foreign travel advice for you. Here are a few of the departments for the major countries that we know read this blog.
- Advice from the Canadian Government on proof of onward travel
- Advice from the Government of the USA on proof of onward travel
- Advice from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office on proof of onward travel
- Advice from the Australian Government on proof of onward travel
- Advice from the New Zealand Government on proof of onward travel
Remember, that a country might require proof of onward travel but their agent (whether it’s the airline check-in staff or immigration agents) might not enforce it.
List of Countries that require proof of onward travel
Countries that we know through our own experience that require proof of onward travel (if you are not a citizen) include:
- Antigua & Barbuda > read our Antigua travel checklist here
- Argentina > UK FCO says proof of onward travel MAY be required
- Colombia > read our Colombia travel checklist here
- Costa Rica > read our Costa Rica travel checklist here
- Japan > read our Japan travel checklist here
- New Zealand
- Panama – check carefully – tickets were required in 2018
- The Philippines
- United Kingdom
- United States
Let us know in the comments, if you’ve been asked for proof of onward travel for other countries (and what your passport is!)
How to Get Proof of Onward Travel
There are a number of ways in which you can provide proof of onward travel when you enter a country, we cover them here.
Get proof of onward travel with OnwardTicket.com
If you can’t pin down when you’ll be leaving a country, and proof of onward travel is required, then Using Onward Ticket to provide you with a legitimate, real, onward ticket is the easiest way to get proof of onward travel. Buy your onward ticket here.
Onward Ticket was set up by Digital Nomads to fix the problem that all Digital Nomads face when requiring onward tickets. You’ll get a cheap, real ticket that works.
There are a bunch of this type of services out there – and many have gone by the wayside. Onward Ticket is a legitimate and respected onward flight booking company. With OnwardTicket you get to rent a ticket that’s valid for 48 hours. It costs you US$12. And it works immediately. Sold? Buy yours now.
Onward Ticket gives you a legit reservation with a PNR in your name. It’s cancelled after 48 hours. They even provide a “Buy now, receive later” option.
Get proof of onward travel with a full refundable for 24-hours ticket
US airlines are required to allow you to cancel a flight booking within 24 or 48 hours without charge – regardless of whether you have status with them or how cheap the seat you’re booking it.
We tend to use United – (and as United is part of the Star Alliance, there are many codeshare flights, so it doesn’t need to be WITH United, or via the USA). This is the best way to get an onward ticket for free. (but make sure you fully read the refund policies).
You can also do this with US version of Expedia – note it has to be the .com version of the site.
- Find your flight.
- Check the cancellation terms.
- Confirm that you’ve got enough credit on your credit card
- Book the flight.
- Save the flight receipt and confirmation as screenshots and PDF’s somewhere that you can easily access them. Save a tree or two and don’t print a hard copy.
- Cancel your flight within the free cancellation period
- That’s it.
We’ve used this method in many countries. We’ve even used it at airports when we’ve not been allowed to check in because we didn’t have that proof of onward travel. In those cases, we walked away booked a flight on the airport Wi-Fi. We then printed the details to a PDF and screenshot, checked in and then cancelled the flight.
Get proof of onward travel with a flexible flight ticket
This is the most expensive way to provide proof of onward travel. Buy a ticket that is fully flexible. Those are the ones that you see on the far right of the page, that are usually stratospherically more expensive than all other tickets. This is an absolutely failsafe way of getting proof of onward travel.
Get proof of onward travel with a cheap (sacrificial) ticket
Launch your browser, find google and look at Google flights. Then just search for the cheapest flight out of the country. Or even try bus services (if you’re in Asia, 12goAsia is awesome for both of these). All you’re looking for is a ticket on a specific date that gets you out of the country.
Who knows you might even get a refund if you cancel it – but that’s not what you’re looking for. You’re looking for a ticket that costs an amount of money that you can afford to sacrifice. Give it a go!
Get proof of onward travel with points
You might have airline points. (we had a lot of United miles when we started our adventures left over from my business travel). You might have miles that you’ve converted from a credit card to airline miles. Many of the miles programs allow you to book flights and then cancel and get your miles/points returned. It’s worth a try – check out any schemes that you belong to and see what works for you!
How NOT to give proof of onward travel
Don’t forget a ticket for proof of onward travel
It’s pretty easy, scan in a ticket, make a few changes, and tada you get a legit-looking ticket that looks pretty good, especially if you’re just looking at it on your phone. And you can even find some very dodgy services that will do this for you.
DON’T. DO. IT.
You might get in. And to be honest, good luck if you try this method. If you get caught you’re not just trying to get around the law. You’re breaking it. You are in essence lying to the immigration officer who will eventually talk to you. And while the most likely effect of getting caught with this is that you’ll be denied entry to the country that you’re trying to get into. You’ll also have problems getting in in the future. And, you may be fined or face jail time.
There are a host of suggestions above as to how you can provide proof of onward travel without breaking the law.
Why is this different from the other ways in which we’ve suggested you can get proof of onward travel? Well, it is simple. You’re not lying. You’re simply handing over the details they asked for, that you bought from a legitimate source.
Of course, if the immigration officer specifically asks you the question “is this ticket still booked and valid, or have you cancelled it?” – well, that would be a good time, to tell the truth. (and no, we don’t know of anyone, anywhere that that has happened to. Ever).
Don’t take it out on the check-in staff – and don’t try blagging with them
Don’t say oh it’s on my laptop and the battery is dead if it’s not. The check-in staff aren’t there to judge you, they’re there to do their job. If they let you on the plane without proof of onward travel and it’s required. And you don’t get into the country, there’s a high chance they will lose their job, or at the very least get a severe reprimand.
What else do you need to know about Proof of Onward Travel?
We think we’re done and have covered all the questions we usually get asked. Let us know what other questions you have about Proof of Onward travel in the comments, or drop us an email and we’ll include the answers in this article!
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