At the airport immigration there are two lines: one for citizens and one for non-citizens. From what I "have heard" a Green Card holder should take the citizen line. Is this true for all international airports in the USA? If not, at which airports can the Green Card holder use the Citizen line?

2 Answers 2


You get in the line that says "permanent residents" on it. If there’s no such signage, you get in line with the non-citizens.

Depending on the airport I have seen permanent residents lumped in with citizens, sometimes with visitors. I imagine it has to do with the proportion of citizens to visitors at that particular airport/terminal and subsequent attempts at load balancing by the immigration authorities. The actual immigration stations are exactly the same regardless of whether the officer processes mainly citizens or aliens.

In any case, check the signage at the airport. When in doubt, ask the very nice woman in uniform who is usually hollering at the top of her voice at people to stay in line and to shut off their cell phones.

(As a side note, ever since getting Global Entry, I have been in bliss. Highly recommended).

  • 5
    my partner reported that when he finally acquired his green card, and could use the citizen/permanent resident line, immigration agents were much nicer and usually said, "Welcome home."
    – mkennedy
    Feb 2, 2015 at 22:15
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    @mkennedy Last time I entered the US through SFO, the permanent resident line was mixed with the other non-US-citizens, and it took me ~ 1.5 hour to queue for the immigration. So YMMV! It's probably a way to have more people pay for the Global Entry. Welcome home! Sep 20, 2018 at 19:14
  • This is wrong information since 2018. There is no longer a line called "US citizens and permanent residents". There is no longer a dedicated line called "permanent residents". As of ~mid-2018, all non-citizens stand in the same line. After that line gets to the APC kiosks, they are separated into Green Cards, and everything else. CBP discretionarily lets Green Cards go through faster lines on the non-citizen side. Or occasionally after the US-citizen line becomes completely empty, they let non-citizens back into the US citizen side.
    – smci
    Jan 10, 2019 at 17:31
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    I searched for official guidelines but didn't find much. Since CBP is regionally-administered, every major airport can do things slightly differently, and change things. Related question on flyertalk from 6/2018
    – smci
    Jan 10, 2019 at 17:41
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    Right. This is very airports specific which is why one must look at the signage. When I came through DIA (Denver) two weeks ago, they were putting citizens, green card, and physical visa holders in one line; ESTA/VWP in another. Jan 20, 2019 at 18:34

RoboKaren writes:

You get in the line that says "permanent residents" on it.

This is certainly true. But if there is no such line, and there is no nice woman in uniform (nor anyone else from whom to get more information), and you are faced with the two options "US citizens" or "non citizens," then you should take the noncitizens' line, because a permanent resident is indeed a noncitizen.

An exception would be if you are traveling with a US citizen, in which case you can go together to the US citizens' line.

  • I disagree with your answer. If you are a LPR IMHO there is nothing wrong with taking the Citizens line by yourself. cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens does not differentiate between a citizen and a LPR
    – Peter M
    Sep 20, 2018 at 21:38
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    @PeterM What's your authority for the "standard practice" assertion? The content of the CBP page you cite above, while addressed to both citizens and green card holders, itself contains no info that addresses the "which line" question. Instead, only further links are presented. Of those seven further links, only two apply: green card holders can use Automated Passport Control, and may not use the Mobile Passport Control app. In the absence of specific contrary guidance from local signs or staff, or when accompanying a citizen, green card holders should thus use the line for non-citizens. Jan 11, 2019 at 15:20
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    @PeterM While I can't gainsay your experience, perhaps you've just been lucky. No one knows. I can say in the presence of signage to contrary, your risk tolerance is higher than mine. Jan 12, 2019 at 15:48
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    @David in my experience the enforcement of the categories of immigration lines is lax enough that I wouldn't expect a permanent resident to be sent back from anywhere except the diplomats line.
    – phoog
    Jan 12, 2019 at 16:10
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    @David The CBP is not known for being generous. I was once detained for a couple of hours because they didn't like how the official USCIS stamp in my passport looked while they verified the details (although to be honest it did look like something that was made from a potato)
    – Peter M
    Jan 12, 2019 at 16:20

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