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Hopefully a quick question - I am a US citizen currently residing in the UK on a visa. I am traveling to the US for 2 weeks with my wife, who is a British citizen. We do not yet share a last name (due to just not filing the paperwork yet and just being married recently). She does not have any visas apart from the standard ESTA and there are no other further requirements, such as money, which we would need to worry about.

I've read online that since we are a family we should join the same line together when coming into the US border at the airport. However, because we don't share a last name, would this still apply? Should we just use our own appropriate lines? Would there be any issues with using our own lines?

If we do use one line only, which line? US citizen or non-US?

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    I'd pick the shortest line that one of you is eligible for. Don't use the APC machines unless your wife is entering under the VWP and has been to the US in the not-too-distant past. – Dennis Sep 25 '17 at 16:30
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    @Dennis "Not too distant past" is not necessarily a requirement. At some airports APC requires a previous visit on the same passport, at others simply a previous visit since 2008, and the newest software update (which is in place at least at LAX TBIT) eliminates the requirement for any previous visit – Crazydre Sep 25 '17 at 17:28
  • Possible copy of travel.stackexchange.com/q/102744/27650, not an offical duplicate as both are as old, both have one answer, not accepted. And while the OP has a different name, the questions feel like they are by the same person – Willeke Sep 25 '17 at 18:09
  • @Willeke Yes that was me. I made the question then I was never able to accept (or edit) my post as I created my account after the question, so I posted here. – Ryan Peterson Sep 26 '17 at 9:37
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    @RyanPeterson you can merge your accounts. – phoog Sep 26 '17 at 12:53
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Yes, you should approach together. You can use the US citizens' line or the non-US line. You're supposed to file a joint customs declaration if you live at the same address, and even if you don't, you're married.

Source: I, a US citizen, have been told by US immigration officials even to approach together in the US citizens' line with a girlfriend with whom I did not live at the same address (or even in the same country). If that advice applied to us, it should apply even more to a married couple.

(We presented separate customs declarations, and the officer tore up hers and changed the "number of family members traveling with you" on mine.)

Furthermore, I am now married to a non US citizen, and we have different last names, and we always present ourselves together at US passport control.

  • My wife (Thai) and I have been told to use the US citizen's line together, so phoog's assumption about married couples is correct. – user13044 Sep 26 '17 at 1:55
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    @Tom it's not actually an assumption, though I didn't make that clear in the answer. I am now married to a non-US citizen and we always go to the passport desk together. In fact, we share the circumstance of Ryan and his wife in that we have different surnames. But I didn't mention that because I never asked CBP about it. – phoog Sep 26 '17 at 2:49
  • @Irked are you following in the footsteps of Relaxed (formerly Annoyed)? – phoog Sep 26 '17 at 12:55
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    Don't know the relaxed/annoyed story. Just getting fed up with the closure nazis, the useless nitpickers and the googling know it alls. – user13044 Sep 26 '17 at 13:28
  • At least as of last week at IAH, things are different in terms of which line to choose. There are now separate lines for visa holders, permanent residents, Canadians, and US citizens. Arriving as a group of citizens, a permanent resident and a visa holder, we were told by 3 staff directing us and eventually confirmed by the CBP agent that processed us that we should, as a group, go through the visa holder line (i.e. the most restrictive line that applied to us). – Eric Aug 7 '18 at 2:27

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