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OAK doesn't handle too many international flights. How efficient are CBP at processing arrivals for those it does handle? I'm arriving as a U.S. citizen from Stockholm on a Monday evening (scheduled arrival 5 p.m.) and wondering how long I should expect to wait.

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@MichaelHampton Quite sure. ARN-OAK on Norwegian Air Shuttle. – pericynthion Jan 30 at 16:19
My experience as a non-US citizen travelling to the US is that it is worth every attempt to get off the plan and down to immigration as quickly as possible, so as to be as close to the front of the line as you can be. Your position in the line makes a huge difference to your wait time. – Dancrumb Jan 31 at 5:19
up vote 11 down vote accepted

I've been going with Norwegian from Stockholm to Oakland a couple of times. It seems to take between 30 minutes and an hour to process all passengers from a Dreamliner. The immigration area has been completely empty when I arrive (as one of the first passengers leaving the airplane) so the waiting time is very dependent on your seating in the airplane. As a US citizen I would expect you to get through immigration in less than 15 minutes, as long as there are US citizens in line they keep one line exclusive for them and there are usually quite few US citizens on these flights.

If you have checked luggage be prepared to wait for an hour if you are unlucky. The first bags arrive quite fast but all bags doesn't fit on the belt so one or two persons manually removes the first round of bags from the belt to make space for more bags. This is very time consuming.

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You can look up historical immigration wait times for any U.S. airport at the CBP web site.

From a quick look, it appears that average wait times at OAK vary dramatically, from as little as a few minutes to over an hour, with no obvious (to me) pattern. But it appears that most international arrivals at OAK are much later in the evening, so you may get lucky with a 5 pm arrival.

OAK doesn't have Automated Passport Control kiosks, though Global Entry is available if you are in that program.

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As the figures don't take traveler's nationality into account, it's probably safe to say that US citizens and permanent residents are far more likely to be on the "few minutes" end of the spectrum, while foreigners who need to be fingerprinted and perhaps subjected to a more stringent interview will account for most of the "over an hour" data points. – phoog Jan 30 at 18:14
@phoog There are separate queues, which they attempt to balance, but just not enough agents. – Andrew Lazarus Jan 31 at 5:50
@AndrewLazarus I don't think they try to balance the queues. I think they give priority to citizens and permanent residents. I generally arrive at JFK or Newark and they typically have roughly the same number of desks serving each queue. The citizen queue moves much more quickly than the non-citizen queue. If they wanted everyone to have the same wait time on average, they wouldn't have separate queues. – phoog Jan 31 at 8:01
@phoog The times weren't equal, but the number of agents assigned to each queue was changed on the fly. I don't know what the parameters are, but they exist. – Andrew Lazarus Jan 31 at 18:26

I have come into OAK on the Norwegian Air flight from Oslo (not the one from Stockholm) and we were in line (i.e., queue) over 35 minutes. US Citizens. About one-third the way back the cabin. The experience had us thinking very strongly of paying for Global Entry.

The examination at itself took two minutes, only because we still had a European apple to discard.

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FWIW: When I arrived at OAK on Feb 1st 2016 on the Norwegian flight from Stockholm my seat was about 2/3 the way back. There was a single combined queue for all passengers except those with Global Entry. Only 2 of the 5 CBP booths were staffed. It took 55 minutes to get through and there were still probably 150 people behind me.

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We went through Oakland Airport in the autumn of 2014 on the Norwegian airlines flight from Oslo. Clearly they were not setup for international travel - I hope things have improved now.

We were near the back of the plane (787) and there was just one long queue. We were American citizens and it took almost 2 hours to get through the line!! This was around 6 pm local time but in the wee hours of the morning Oslo time. Lots of Norwegian families with kids in line. An absurd wait and a shocking face for America compared to how efficient most European entry points are.

Make sure you go to the bathroom on the plane, as there are no bathrooms before the immigration inspection.

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