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I have a flight from Montego Bay, Jamaica to Orlando, USA with Southwest Airlines and about four hours later a flight onward from Orlando to Frankfurt, Germany with Lufthansa. I'm travelling on a UK passport.

Will I need to clear US Immigration and Customs?

  • Yes, and you will also need to obtain an ESTA prior to travel or have a valid US visa to do this transit. – Calchas Jun 27 '16 at 0:03
  • Yes, and that's going to be a pretty tight connection for separate tickets. – Michael Hampton Feb 2 '17 at 20:17
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Yes. When you arrive in Orlando, you will be directed to the immigration hall. You will need to proceed through US Immigration (and will require whatever documentation is required for that according to your nationality, which may involve an ESTA or a visa), claim any checked luggage, take it out through US Customs, bring your bags up to the Lufthansa check-in counter, and proceed through TSA security.

This document shows the general process. You will go through immigration and customs in a satellite terminal and then ride the train back to the main terminal. You may either bring your bags on the train or use the "courtesy baggage transfer option" to have them sent to a baggage claim in the main terminal for pick up.

  • I strongly recommend to carry your luggage yourself (from customs to the Lufthansa check-in), as you otherwise have to wait another 30 minutes to get them back at a belt (and carry them about the same distance to the Lufthansa check-in). – Aganju Jun 27 '16 at 0:08
  • @Aganju I agree. And most of the distance is a train so it wouldn't be that far to actually carry them. – Zach Lipton Jun 27 '16 at 0:15
  • Thanks, very helpful advice. So how long should I allow between the flights? My guess is 60-90 minutes to clear immigration and customs, plus 60 mins to change terminals and check in with Lufthansa, plus another 60-90 minutes to go through security. 3 to 4 hours in total. Is that realistic? (I will be transiting on a Sunday afternoon starting about 3.30pm) – Richard S Jun 28 '16 at 8:13
  • 4 hours seems pretty doable. The main problem is that you're on separate tickets, so the airline isn't responsible if you can't make it in time. You might find the CBP airport wait times useful to better estimate time in immigration. It should take less than 60 minutes to change terminals and check in with Lufthansa, and even with the longer lines TSA is running, 90 minutes is very much on the long side. I think you'll likely be fine unless there are significant delays. – Zach Lipton Jun 28 '16 at 8:21

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