Immigration question: do I need a return ticket? What is an onward ticket?

If you ever had romantic notions of entering a foreign country on a one-way ticket and just planning things as you go, then you are probably a bit of backpacker...! 

If this is you, then you had better familiarise yourself with 'onward tickets' and the norms explained below.

For travel to many countries, you could be denied boarding for your flight or even entry to the foreign country if you don't have a return ticket. For travellers that for whatever reason do not wish to have returns booked, fortunately there is a legal method to meet this compliance hurdle.

'Onward ticket rental'

Immigration officials and airline staff around the world are required to take steps to ensure that you aren't entering a country with the intention of staying there forever illegally. At some point in time for some reason, it became the norm to assume that anyone with a ticket to leave said country would not overstay their visas. Therefore, in many cases, you will only be allowed to board a plane or enter a country if you can evidence that you have travel booked into but also out of the country.

This policy is a little at odds with how most backpackers, overland travellers, spontaneous planners, Gotoco'ers and oter adventurers want to plan their trips. Fortunately, there are lots of providers of ticket rental that will allow you to legally comply with this norm by showing that you hold a genuine booking. This is usually a 'rented' ticket, which is a genuine booking that will usually be cancelled later.

When travellers do not have fixed plans for onward travel, they can use a service like this one to reserve a real booking for 7-14 days which can be used to meet the requirement that they enter a country with tickets booked to leave again. 

More details here:

*Quick warning:

A genuine  onward ticket rental service provides you with a genuine ticket, but not all that glitters is gold. Beware of online 'ticket generators' as these will just create a fake ticket that looks real. These should not be used, as you should never use fake documents! FYI: when a real ticket is issued, the codes on it can be used to check with the airline that the flight exists. 


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