I will be traveling to Thailand and Japan with my friend/roommate. We booked our tickets together. My question is, when going through Immigration and Customs at our destination, do we go through together as a 'single family' or is it okay to go through separately? We live in the same apartment, but we are not related.

Another question (I'm just curious), the Immigration and Customs officers, would they be able to know if we booked our tickets together or is that information not available to them?

  • 10
    It depends on the country. What country will you be visiting?
    – phoog
    Apr 24, 2018 at 5:31
  • 1
    @phoog We will be visiting Thailand and then Japan. Apr 24, 2018 at 8:16
  • @Meysam Glad to hear that, we sort of wanted to go through separately but was worried it would be a problem. Apr 24, 2018 at 8:18
  • 3
    What is your goal here? Do you want to go through together or separately? This might change how we address your answer (for example, if you want to go separately, then you absolutely can without issue; just don't lie if asked if you're traveling alone - tell them you aren't, and you're traveling with a friend/roommate). If you want to go through together, advice will change and may depend on location.
    – Doc
    Apr 24, 2018 at 17:56

5 Answers 5


While you may be close, you are not a family unit and should approach separately. If airport staff directs you to separate lines, just go with it.

As to whether they know you're travelling together, maybe, maybe not, but it doesn't matter. There's nothing at all unusual about friends travelling together.

Important point, if you're asked if you are travelling with someone, don't lie. Just say yes and if asked, point out your friend.

  • 6
    Note that it is indeed a pretty common question.
    – jcaron
    Apr 24, 2018 at 7:30

When I travel together with someone (whether my mum or a friend), it's always been natural for us to approach together, including in the UK, France (including Guadeloupe and Martinique), Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Bosnia, Macedonia, Turkey, North Cyprus and Georgia (in fact I will often hold both of our documents). So far no one has ever given us grief for that.

However, anecdotal evidence suggests officers may not allow it if you aren't family, but unless you're in an ultra-sensitive country like the US, where you risk getting sent back over the slightest error, the worst thing that can happen is they ask one person to back off while the other one is processed.

If you absolutely don't want that to happen, stay together in the queue, try talking to each other so the officers realise you're together, but let one approach the officer first, and if asked about the other person, point to the other person.

the Immigration and Customs officers, would they be able to know if we booked our tickets together or is that information not available to them?

In some advanced countries like the US, they may know once they scan your documents, because of advance passenger information. In general, though, no.

  • 14
    Are you alleging that a US immigration official might refuse entry to two people just because they went to the desk together but weren't family members? That seems very far-fetched, to me. Apr 24, 2018 at 12:33
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    @DavidRicherby You never know with the CBP; as soon as you're a foreign nonimmigrant, you're completely at their mercy and small errors may well trigger the "fifth gear" of many officers, especially ones having a bad day or simply on a power trip. Not saying an entry refusal would be a direct consequence, but being summarily sent to secondary and being deemed inadmissible after harsh grilling, simply because they have the wrong preconceptions about you, is a very real possibility. It happened to someone I know, though for a different reason
    – Crazydre
    Apr 24, 2018 at 12:42
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    I wasn't asking about "a different reason": I was asking about this reason. And it really does seem very unlikely that the officer's response would be anything other than "I need to talk to you separately. One of you please go back to the line." Apr 24, 2018 at 12:47
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    @DavidRicherby I find it very plausible that a grumpy officer in the US could subject both passengers to more scrutiny (at least at primary inspection) for such a petty reason.
    – Crazydre
    Apr 24, 2018 at 13:20
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    @DavidRicherby How can different people have so different estimates regarding how reasonable the CBP is? I guess everyone extrapolates from their experiences. If you're born in a western country, with a western name, have the highest academic standards and a clean CV, and yet you're being sent to 2h interviews because what you can only identify to be your looks, you'll adjust your prior on how "reasonable/ objectively statistically discriminating" the CBP is. Friends had several interactions with officers who were clearly enjoying the stress the interview was causing them.
    – FooBar
    Apr 25, 2018 at 12:07

It depends much more on the place you are travelling to than on your relationship status. On my last trip to Russia, for example, that customs officers told us clearly that the signs "approach individually" also apply to married couples.

In general, approaching seperately is always the safe option. Anyway you will have separate visas and passports. For Thailand approaching together might work, for Japan I dimly remember the same as for Russia above was true, but it's been 10+ years since I travelled there.

  • 8
    I can confirm that at the time of writing this, in Japan adults go through immigration separately, no matter their relationship/travel status; and the same thing when leaving the country. Japanese immigration officers are usually quite friendly anyway.
    – Konamiman
    Apr 24, 2018 at 15:37

We always approach separately because it is faster. However, after landing in Japan (Tokyo-Narita), my girlfriend came to the officer and he asked if we had traveled together, then he prompted me to go, so we went through immigration at the same time.
I can't see any problem with going separately: both of us had a form with address of hotel we planned to stay (actually, it was Airbnb apartment), passport and a ticket. Japan immigration is very professional and helpful, just asking about the purpose of a visit and sometimes inspecting luggage.

  • 2
    The Japanese are indeed "easy" if you're from a "low-risk" country. In particular, many officers don't speak English and so will only scan and endorse your documents.
    – Crazydre
    Apr 24, 2018 at 16:34

Since you are not going to the US, I wouldn't sweat it, though I would expect the Japanese to be a bit alert, especially if you are younger, since you are coming from a country that is known as a source for drugs. Sometimes they want people "traveling together" to approach together, sometimes only family, sometimes only individuals. If this is a typical vacation trip, then all should go very smoothly and the Thai and Japanese officials are always very polite. If your traveling companion is behind you there will be no problem. There may be cases where people pretend not to know each other and go through separately, so I would avoid the appearance of that.

As to US, here is a typical experience from this site:

I've entered the US from Canada (@ YVR pre-clearance) a few times with friends, and I've had the officer get angry with me for both situations.

1) Walk up alone, friend stands behind red line:

(Officer looks up at friend standing behind red line): "Are you two traveling together?" "Yes, sir." "Then why ISN'T HE UP HERE WITH YOU!?!?!" (Friend hustles forward.)

2) Another time, walk up together, friend stands next to me.

"Are you two a family (sneer)?" "No, Sir." "The GET BACK BEHIND THE RED LINE!"

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