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We will be flying from JFK to Athens (ATH) with a connection in Rome (FCO). Do we go through immigration in FCO or at ATH? It is one reservation on ITA Airways (e.g. Alitalia). We will only have carry-ons. Is there transit side immigration or do we go through immigration with those staying in Italy?

3 Answers 3

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Both Greece and Italy are part of the Schengen Area, this means that your FCO-ATH flight is an intra-Schengen flight, so you will go through immigration at your first point of entry, which is Rome (FCO) here

You will go through customs in Greece though, as the customs are behind the baggage claim, and you will not claim your bag in Italy

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    OP has said they will only have carry-on. Technically customs is done in the first point of entry into the EU for carry-on bags.
    – Doc
    Jan 10, 2023 at 16:13
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    @Doc, can you explain? I have never seen a customs officer/area between the piers of the airports.
    – Willeke
    Jan 10, 2023 at 16:24
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    @Willeke There is generally no physical check, but technically it's the passengers responsibility to find a customs officer and declare anything they have in carry-on bags. Realistically it probably never happens, but those are the rules...
    – Doc
    Jan 10, 2023 at 17:44
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    @AndrewRay you're right that in the US you clear customs at your point of entry, but in the EU (with very few exceptions) you clear it at your final airport of the ticket.
    – mlc
    Jan 10, 2023 at 19:54
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    @AndrewRay: Sometimes at airports they have different passport checkpoints for passengers arriving (these will then lead to luggage retrieval), and passengers transiting. Jan 11, 2023 at 11:20
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Is there transit side immigration or do we go through immigration with those staying in Italy?

I've never been to FCO, but I can say that in some Schengen airports there are multiple immigration checkpoints depending on where you're going, and in others there aren't, so it could be either way.

Regardless, you don't need to be concerned about this except as a matter of curiosity. Just follow the signs to your gate and by doing so you will be guided to the correct immigration checkpoint: upon your arrival, you will be in a non-Schengen part of the airport, and your departure gate will be in a Schengen part of the airport, and you can't pass from one part to the other without going through passport control.

If for some reason your plans change and you check a bag, you won't see the bag in Rome. You will retrieve it in Athens. The customs checkpoint is after baggage claim. Even if you don't check anything, you will have to walk through the baggage claim hall to leave the airport. You should choose the red channel if you have something to declare and the green channel if you don't. The blue channel is for people who are arriving from another EU country, which (despite the transfer in Italy) you are not.

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I have never personally been through FCO, but based on experience from multiple trips to ATH from the US transiting through various places in Europe, the overall arrangement will be:

  • Entry control (immigration) at FCO. Italy and Greece are both in the Schengen Area, and the rule for this is that you only have entry control at your port of entry, which will be FCO. Note that this is generally pretty fast for people who do not require a visa (many people, including US citizens, do not for short vacation stays), the longest I’ve ever waited at entry control at a Schengen airport was about 10 minutes at CDG (which is notoriously almost always running at or over capacity).
  • Customs technically at FCO. For any carry-on items, you’re officially supposed to make any required declarations at the port of entry (because that’s technically where you’re bringing those items in) by seeking out a customs officer. It is unlikely - unless you are carrying food, prescription (or restricted OTC) medications, large sums of cash (in excess of EUR 10000) or things you intend to sell or gift while in the Schengen area - that you need to declare anything though, and declarations for carry-ons are mostly not enforced for transit airports.
  • Airport security at FCO. Just like entering the US from abroad, you will need to re-clear airport security at FCO after clearing entry control. This is also generally pretty fast, especially if you’re used to dealing with big airports in the US like JFK or ORD.
  • Customs again at ATH after baggage claim. Pretty much all major Schengen airports, including ATH, have customs situated after baggage claim, and you will have to pass through to leave the airport. Note that despite FCO being your official port of entry, you are still officially arriving in ATH from the US, not from Italy, and must choose the correct channel at customs accordingly.
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    I'm not sure you will have to go through security again. Coming from a "safe" destination (and the US is considered this) you will not have to go through security again. It is however possible that the airport layout does not allow this. Jan 11, 2023 at 11:18
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    (+1) Note that the rules regarding cash are separate from the rest. On top of the EU-wide requirement, it might necessary to declare it again in any EU country you go to, even if you travel overland or the trip originates within the EU.
    – Relaxed
    Jan 11, 2023 at 11:57
  • @KristvanBesien While technically not required by law, I have yet to see a continental European airport that did not require re-clearing security after going through entry control as a result of the airport layout. It’s just more economical to design airports this way, because it means that scheduling and gate assignment only has to care about whether the flight needs entry control or not, not whether the point of origin is ‘safe’. Jan 11, 2023 at 14:34
  • @AustinHemmelgarn: ZRH is like that. Arriving from a "Safe" origin, eg UK or US you can exit directly in to the departure concourse of D (or E), from where you can get to A/B by just passing passport control. No extra security needed. The same is the case in FRA if you arrive in Z and leave from A. But sometimes airport layout does not make it possible to separate passengers depending on origin. Jan 12, 2023 at 8:31

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