Immigration and Customs

Immigration and Customs

When you enter a different country from which your flight departed you will have go through the Immigration process. Each country will have its own agency that administers this inspection process. For the vast majority of passengers the immigration process only takes a few minutes, though lines to take your turn can get long if many international flights arrive around the same time.

Where to go upon arrival to the Immigration Area of the airport

Steps of the Immigration Process

  1. Review Travel Documents

    Officials will review your required passenger travel documents (passport, visa, green card, disembarkation card (provided by flight attendant during flight), immunization documentation, letters of confirmation or support, etc.).

  2. Questions

    Officials will likely ask you questions (as deemed necessary by the process or official).

    Typical questions:

    • What is the nature of your visit? How long are you staying? Where will you be staying?
    • Some countries require fingerprints and/or photos of every individual entering the the country. Officials will take fingerprints or photos if required.
    • Official will stamp your passport once you are approved and granted admission.
    • Officials can specify your period of authorized stay in case of non-immigrant visitors (this will depend on visa rules/tourist stay policies).
  3. Second-Level Inspection

    Some passengers might be selected for second level of inspection. Second-level inspections could be conducted in the same queue (line) or in a separate room to aid in a conversation and to keep the queues moving for other passengers. The timeframe of these inspections can vary greatly.

    Passengers that are part of second-level inspections could be granted regular admission into the country once inspection is complete. However, if the incorrect or inadequate documentation is provided, passengers can be denied approval to enter country. Passengers are sent back to their original location on the next available flight.

    Reasons for 2nd level inspection:

    • random checks
    • questions or issues with documentation

Going Through Customs—What Does it Mean?

After clearing immigration and collecting your baggage, you will need to proceed through the customs area before being allowed to exit the airport. Customs is the authority in the respective country you enter that is responsible for controlling the flow of goods, including animals, transports, foods, personal effects, and hazardous items, into and out of a country.

Customs and Action Steps for Travelers

While on your flight, your flight attendant will distribute a Customs Declaration Form.

Most forms ask the point of exit and entry of your flight, your flight number, what goods you may be bringing into the country (forms might list prohibited items for respective country).

  1. Complete the Customs Declaration form while on the flight.
  2. Ask questions to your flight attendant or traveling companions as needed.
  3. Declare any goods you have with you that might have restrictions, and/or goods you purchased in country when returning to your home country.
  4. Present your declaration form to custom officials.
  5. Custom officials may or may not inspect your luggage. If they do check your bags and find restricted items, you may be asked to pay duty and/or fines. This is why it is critical to declare items as asked and required.

Each country and airport will have varying processes and requirements for customs and rules around declaration of items. Review the specific country and airport of entry for specific customs guidelines.

Example airport arrival information (immigration and customs):