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Is it possible I missed customs? My flight was from my home country to MIA, then to JG in Ohio. As it stands, upon landing in MIA, I passed through immigration, and then baggage claim just fine. However the person at baggage said I had to go to Concorse (Concord?) D. I proceeded through the exit for baggage through a ton of hallways out to the area where all the ticket counters were, then swung around the checked back my baggage for the next flight, and picked up my baggage in Ohio and left.

When I came back home I did pass through customs, but it was well, the only thing there. I am panicking now. I want to travel again, as my only friends are in the US. Nevertheless, this was honestly a mistake, as my first time trying to fly. Am I going to be blacklisted from the US, charged, etc.? What'll happen now? I don't recall passing through any green/red areas well.

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    Note that the US doesn't have green/red areas in customs like some other countries. If you needed to declare something, you would have done that on the form you filled out and/or possibly on electronic kiosks. Jul 19 at 22:28
  • We weren't presented with a form on the plane, but I do recall the kiosk at MIA for the connecting flight asking if I had any prohibited items, before it issued me the boarding pass. Jul 19 at 22:47
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    "I do recall the kiosk at MIA for the connecting flight asking if I had any prohibited items, before it issued me the boarding pass.": That has nothing to do with customs. It's not illegal to import a kitchen knife or a two-liter container of hand sanitizer gel into the US, but it is forbidden to have either in your cabin baggage.
    – phoog
    Jul 19 at 23:38
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    Does this answer your question? Is it possible to exit the airport without going through the customs?
    – brhans
    Jul 20 at 0:34
  • I often forget to finish my snacks like apples and then give them to the customs guy as fresh food ecological hazard 😄
    – Mike M
    Jul 20 at 14:40

4 Answers 4

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If you exited the baggage area, then you passed through customs. US customs officers do not always stop everyone leaving the baggage area. I don't think you have anything to worry about.

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  • By exiting the baggage area I do mean literally passing the exit door. From my memory, I passed by an area that said "connecting flight check in", that was roped off for some reason, and then out to the information desk. I don't know if I accidentally took a route that led me away from customs, but according to the map of MIA I was at terminal J for bag pickup, which wasn't in the slot for where the box with customs is, through I choose to believe that the workers would be at all possible exits. Unless the 4 people stationed in the bag claim behind some counters were the customs officers? Jul 19 at 22:56
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    No worries. You DID pass through customs. Customs is at the exit of the baggage area and there is no other way out. It's the same for passengers that connect and passengers that exit. These split AFTER customs. In most cases you just walk by some uniformed person who looks bored. In most cases, that's all there is to it
    – Hilmar
    Jul 19 at 23:28
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    @guestthrowaway trust me, if you somehow avoided customs or went a wrong way that bypasses customs, you would have found out very very quickly. As has been noted, lots of US airports have the Customs area "blended in" with baggage claim and it's not as much of an obvious and "hard stop" as other countries.
    – BruceWayne
    Jul 20 at 16:12
  • It's illegal for us to "profile" anyone, but I know what I'm looking for -- not that I'm looking for anyone -- and you're not it. Jul 21 at 23:30
  • @guestthrowaway Normally the connecting flight check-in area is intended only for those exiting customs who need to put their bags back on the plane--the bags are already tagged to their final destination. It's not meant as a general check-in counter so they often set it up to keep others from wandering in. Jul 25 at 4:41
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In the US, the "immigration" and "customs" are the same people and the same agency (Customs and Border Protection agency, the CBP). They wear the same uniforms. If you passed through immigration - you were inspected by the CBP, and that includes customs.

Physically, there are two steps: the passport control (which is what you probably referred to "passing through immigration"), and customs control. The latter is usually rare to end up in an actual physical inspection (happened to me exactly once). Usually you just go out of the baggage claim area, passing the CBP folks who're doing the customs controls. It is not unusual to not even notice them being there (as happened to you). As other answers suggest - they do often appear "just standing there bored". But don't worry, if they wanted to inspect you - you'd know.

You cannot exit the baggage area without being either inspected or chosen to not be inspected by the CBP officers responsible for the customs control, just as you cannot enter the baggage area without being inspected by the CBP officers responsible for the passport control.

There are no paper forms in the US any more.

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    That area (that you passed through once) is known as "secondary inspection". You can go there for customs reasons (for example, you are traveling with a pet) or for immigration reasons (you are applying for a new immigration status - for example, a Canadian applying for a TN status). You can also "get sent" there for less benign reasons. It was like this even before Customs and Immigration merged into CBP in the post-9/11 period
    – Flydog57
    Jul 20 at 20:42
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    @Flydog57 no, secondary inspection is something else entirely. Custom inspection is usually done in the baggage claim area itself - they have xray machines and desks to open the luggage and have it inspected.
    – littleadv
    Jul 20 at 21:23
  • There is also the agricultural something agency that may also check you before you leave the baggage area.
    – WoJ
    Jul 21 at 18:25
  • The chance of being checked varies considerably based on things like where you came from. As we are normally coming from China agricultural inspection is very common and I have overheard officials discussing whether our flight was 100% inspect. Typically they run all the bags through their x-ray and only open those containing organics of sufficient density. Jul 25 at 4:44
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littleadv explained what likely happened in your situation, but to give a broader answer:

In any commercial airport in a developed country, it is virtually impossible to "accidentally" evade required screening (security, immigration, customs, etc.).

Airports take this very seriously, with carefully defined pre-/post-screening zones and electronic access control on any doors between them. Even airport employees moving between zones are subject to additional scrutiny. If you don't hear an ear-splitting siren and nobody's tackling you to the ground, you haven't evaded anything.

Now, that's not to say that you can't accidentally do the wrong thing. In particular, customs in EU airports will generally have three "customs lanes" -- blue for intra-EU arrivals, green for "nothing to declare", red for "something to declare". Passing through a particular one of these lanes is explicitly making a customs declaration, and if you forget (or "forget") to declare something which you're required to declare, that's a crime. But absentmindedly wandering through the blue lane instead of the green lane is not going to cause you problems later on.

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    In practice, nobody is going to care if you go through green rather than blue or visa-versa. They also won't mind much if you go through red rather than green or blue (you'll have to talk to a customs person and may get told off for wasting their time, but that's it). The mistake that is definitely illegal is walking through green or blue, when you haven't come from within the EU and have something to declare. Jul 20 at 10:57
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    I once arrived in Frankfurt (from the U.S.)with more than the duty-free allowance, so I went to the red line. Without asking me any questions, the officer there told me to go to the green line. Jul 20 at 16:49
  • When flying with my cat, I once had to go to the red area, then stick my head round the door of the tea room to find a customs officer to actually check my paperwork - he was very nice about it, but they obviously didn't get a lot of declarations!
    – lupe
    Jul 20 at 20:55
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I don't remember any green or red area in any of the US airports I have been to, just a space with metal tables and officers standing around. Typically, you had to hand them a customs declaration form but I don't think it's mandatory to interact with them if you are not challenged and have nothing to declare.

Unlike immigration, customs in the US has always been rather light touch and I don't think you risk being blacklisted. Immigration violations would be much more serious in that respect.

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    We weren't given a customs form on the plane actually, so i'm not sure if that's in effect anymore. As for space with metal table and officers, the baggage area did have them, but I don't recall anyone needing to go up to them. Jul 19 at 22:45
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    Minor correction: customs forms have now been phased out in the US. So you just walk past a few customs agent with an X-ray, just like in Europe.
    – JonathanReez
    Jul 19 at 23:09
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    Yeah, this is why it’s confusing, the US changed the process significantly during covid and there’s no clear signage or explanations in-flight about the new process. Jul 21 at 18:37

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