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I will soon travel to the US for the first time.

I am not a US citizen, but I will travel together with one.

We will land in ATL and then proceed to a connecting flight. I know I will have to clear customs in ATL.

My ESTA application has been approved, but I read that since I never have travelled to the US before, I will have to clear immigration through a old-fashioned booth with a immigration officer, and I won't be able to use the electronic kiosks.

As my travel companion is a citizen, they'll not be subject to this restriction.

What is the best course of action? Should they queue with me, or should we proceed our separate ways?

I'd like to proceed together, but I don't know if it is allowed.

  • 1
    What's your relationship to your companion? If you're married, this answer applies. – MJeffryes May 28 at 12:35
  • @MJeffryes we're not, but thanks for the link. – Federico May 28 at 12:42
  • I suppose it could be different in ATL, but even if you use the booths, you pass by a real human, unless you have global entry, which I assume you don't. – Azor Ahai May 28 at 18:19
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    @Clément on the other hand, in New York and Newark, I have been repeatedly and consistently told the contrary: that I and my non-US family should use the US citizens' line. So it seems that the only way to find out what to do in Atlanta is to ask an officer in Atlanta. – phoog May 29 at 2:05
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    Federico: actually, you are supposed to submit a joint customs declaration if you live in the same household and have any sort of relationship beyond being roommates. It's not limited to spouses. A joint customs declaration implies going to passport control together. – phoog May 29 at 2:14
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In Atlanta it is a big hall for the Passport checks (not customs, that comes later after you collect your bags).

For first timers, they will take your fingerprints and photo at the booth where the officer checks the passport.

It is very swift and easy. I don't remember exactly if there were restrictions about who may use the line, but I don't think so.

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    There are indeed different lines for citizens and non-citizens at immigration in Atlanta (and also separate lines for Global Entry, Mobile Passport, etc.) – reirab May 28 at 22:58
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You can both go to the same passport check booth, but if you are asked to go to additional screening, whomever is with you will likely not be allowed to accompany you, even if it is your spouse. That person will then have to wait for you outside the immigration area.

  • Yeah. It would be nicer to wait together in the queue than on the restaurant at arrival. Near the split of the two queue usually you will find an officer which tell people on what queue to go. You can ask and get confirmation (and maybe to the US queue). – Giacomo Catenazzi May 28 at 13:13
  • It also helps to be together if one of you needs help or information of the other. Like the address you will stay, or your relationship with your travel companion (being cross verified with the other.) – Willeke May 28 at 19:47
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi in my experience, the people telling you which line to go to are airport staff, not CBP officers, and they do not seem to have any training to deal with substantive questions. I have been told on more than one occasion to ignore them because they don't know what they're talking about. So take any information they give you with a grain of salt. – phoog May 29 at 2:11
  • @phoog: yes, but you have an argument to immigration officers if the quick one was the wrong one (so not bad faith). In any case usually (always) staff are nice, just that sometime they are extremely slow (and too much chatty). – Giacomo Catenazzi May 29 at 5:56

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