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Tonight I will be leaving Recife, Brazil to go to Tucson, AZ, USA, with a stop in Rio and another stop in Houston. Will my checked-in baggage be directly delivered to Tucson after I leave it at a drop-off counter or will I have to check it in again at Houston?

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Houston will be your first port of entry in the United States. As such, you will have to go through immigration and customs before you can board your flight to Tucson. Here's what you're likely to find:

  • You'll get off the plane in Houston and walk down a series of corridors until you arrive at the immigration hall.
  • You'll wait in line and go through immigration
  • You'll go to the baggage claim for your flight and collect your checked luggage
  • You'll take the luggage through customs (customs is often as simple as handing them your form and being waved through, unless they want to talk to you or look at your bags)
  • You'll follow the signs for connecting flights, which will take you to a counter where they'll take your checked bags back. You can confirm they are tagged to go to Tucson at this time, if that didn't happen already for some reason. You can also ask the airline representatives here for directions to your gate.
  • You'll continue through to TSA security before being allowed into the secure side of the terminal
  • The baggage drop is pretty much impossible to miss at IAH. You'll run right into it as you exit the customs hall; it's next to the escalators leading back to departures. – Michael Hampton Mar 26 '16 at 0:53
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Whenever you enter the USA, you need to go through immigration at the first airport, and there you must pick up your luggage and carry it through customs. Right behind customs, there will be agents of your airline and you can drop off your luggage with them again (and the airline will then transport it for as many legs as you fly).

If you don't do it, they will not send it after you (happened to multiple people I know already). Your luggage will sit in that airport until you go there and get it.

For your example, that means you need to do that in Houston.

  • If you don't do it, they will not send it after you Of course not, would you be willing to carry a stranger's suitcase through Customs -- and bear the legal penalties for whatever contraband might be discovered? – Malvolio Mar 26 '16 at 0:50
  • Well, if the current location of the traveller is for example Los Angeles, and he neglected to take his luggage through customs in New York, it could be an option to have the airline fly the luggage to LA and have him take it through customs there. That would avoid that he has to travel back to NY to pick up his luggage. That's what I meant; but it is not an option, no matter how much you whine. - I understand that not all airports have customs, as the USA has many small national-only airports, it would not be possible there anyway. But all international airport, it would have been possible. – Aganju Mar 26 '16 at 1:12
  • Nope, not possible. Flights from New York to LA will depart from and arrive at the domestic terminal and the baggage will not go through customs. There are only two ways to get luggage out of an international terminal: in the belly of an international flight or being carried through customs by its owner. Could you talk the airline into flying your bag to, say, Tijuana? Legally possible, but I sincerely doubt the airline would play ball, and the trip down to Mexico would be barely easier than returning to New York. – Malvolio Mar 26 '16 at 1:25
  • I know that airlines can take bags through US customs on your behalf if you come to be separated from your luggage, as I've had them do it before (ANA at SFO a few years ago). It's certainly possible that such luggage receives extra scrutiny from Customs, but they aren't going to put the poor airline employee in jail if there turns out to be contraband in the bags. A number of FlyerTalk posters report cases where the airline got their bags through Customs without them. – Zach Lipton Mar 26 '16 at 5:04
  • One reason the airlines won't send the bag behind a passenger who forgot it in customs is that it would violate the anti-bomb principle that it must be impossible for a passenger to deliberately cause his baggage to travel on a flight he isn't aboard himself. – Henning Makholm Mar 26 '16 at 23:22

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