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I will be transferring through Chicago from an international flight. O'Hare has Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks. Information online states:

APC can be used by all U.S. and Canadian passport holders, as well as international travelers with Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval.

However, I've passed through Chicago before, and then I remember signs saying you could only use it if you'd previously entered the United States (and possibly only if that entry was on the same passport). Since my companion hasn't entered the United States before, I'd like to know if this is (still?) the case.

  • They usually like to speak to first time travellers as going through the APC you have the chance of not having to interact with an officer apart from stamping your passport and maybe a quick question at the gate – BritishSam May 31 '18 at 14:03
  • My friend got a new passport last year and the APC slip on her first entry after that had a cross on it and she was sent to speak to an officer, which does suggest that you must have entered the US before with the same passport (this was at JFK in October) – etmuse May 31 '18 at 14:05
  • @etmuse But in this case do you get to go to a dedicated officer and skip the long queue? – MJeffryes May 31 '18 at 14:08
  • @BritishSam Your answer implies that you can still use the kiosk, but are then redirected to an officer? Is this the case? And once again, is this a dedicated officer or do you have to rejoin the long queue for non-APC? – MJeffryes May 31 '18 at 14:10
  • @MJeffryes yes it's a dedicated officer, but this may or may not be a faster process than joining the main queue - it took my friend an hour to get through the dedicated queue as it was just ONE dedicated officer – etmuse May 31 '18 at 14:19
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In my experience, anyone entering under the VWP can use the APC machines (which saves filling in the paper form at the least) but if you have not entered the US before with your current passport (possibly using the same ESTA but have not been in the position to check this either way) then your paper slip from the APC machine will be marked and you will be sent to speak to an officer as if you had joined the non-APC line to start with.

At JFK you are sent to a dedicated queue for people who were flagged up at APC, this may or may not be the case at Chicago. This queue can, however, take just as long as the main queue - it may be minimally staffed and thus move very slowly despite its shorter length.

  • Ok, thanks. We will have to assess when we get there what the queuing situation is. – MJeffryes May 31 '18 at 14:40
  • The previous entry never has to be on the same ESTA, but, at certain airports, it must be on the same passport – Crazydre Apr 11 at 5:40
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The main reason that you have to get in line the first time is that they take your finger prints. Every further visit, the machine can match them to your prints, and identify you.

First visit (or if you weren't finger printed), obviously it can't, so you will have to go in line and see an officer.

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I have now traveled through O'Hare. The answer to the question turns out to be irrelevant, since all visitors are now directed to use the APC kiosks. So as far as I can tell, APC is mandatory at O'Hare.

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    Hardly for non-visitor visa holders though. – Crazydre Apr 11 at 5:41
  • @Crazydre indeed. I've never used APC because I almost always travel with my wife, a non-visitor-visa holder. The one time I've entered the US without my wife since its introduction, I arrived at Newark terminal B where there was no APC. – phoog Jun 17 at 20:23
  • Yes, maybe I should have been more clear when I said visitors all have to use APC. – MJeffryes Jun 18 at 9:27
  • @MJeffryes For long only VWP travellers could, but the most major airports have now introduced it for B visa holders – Crazydre Jun 19 at 9:13

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