I'm a US citizen. Every time I use the automated passport kiosks, regardless of the airport or who I'm travelling with, they always give me an X. This means I get to stand in yet another line and get all-but-waved-through when I eventually get to the officer.

In the interest of not having to stand in the first line for the kiosks, am I allowed to just go to the visitors line instead? Or will I get sent back and told to use the kiosks? Or is there some other way to opt out of their use?

When I flew from Guangzhou to LAX in June, I stood in the kiosk line a full 45 minutes, only to receive an X and get sent to the visitors line for another 35 minutes. This is what I'm trying to avoid. Clearly it doesn't matter when flying into, say, BWI where there are no kiosks (and you're going to wait 2 hours for your luggage anyway), but rather for the airports that do have the kiosks. At LAX, everyone in the US citizen line was directed to kiosks.

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    Related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/78042/…
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 8:56
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    Can you? yes. But then you will lose that "all-but-waved-through" speed when you get there, because the CBP officer will have to manually enter everything that you would have done at the kiosk (and probably sternly ask why you didn't use the kiosk like a good citizen).
    – user13044
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 9:26
  • On a slightly related note, you can do the same if you are a Schengen-member state citizen (i.e. skip the automatic Schengen gates -- they seem to always have a problem with my passport...).
    – tomasz
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 8:48
  • You could also try Mobile Passport, however it's only supported in some airports. You could just avoid the kiosk line and go directly to the immigration officer. If you want, you can apply for a redress number, which might help you if you're being confused with someone else.
    – Rajiv
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 22:37
  • Yeah I'm going to see if I can figure out why I'm getting denied at the kiosks when I next return to the US in December. I have a sneaking suspicion that my passport's biometrics are broken. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 6:47

4 Answers 4


If the Automated Passport Control kiosk rejects you, the reason for the rejection may be displayed on screen and/or printed on your X receipt as a "referral code." The code tells officers what the specific problem was.

A list of these codes is available in the Automated Passport Control specifications:

Enforcement Referral
Traveler has enforcement type issues

Random Referral
Traveler is selected for random compliance

Declaration Referral
Traveler answers Yes to any general declaration question

APIS Problem
Traveler is not found on a manifest

Entry Authorization
Visa Waiver traveler does not have an approved ESTA status

Biometric Failure
Traveler has no Enrollment Record on file or biometrics cannot be verified (applicable to Visa Waiver travelers).

Check Documentation
Referral based on

  • Foreign national traveler’s passport expiration date is less than 6 months
  • USC or US LPR traveler’s document query results in a mismatch or not “Issued” status

Technical Referral
Referral based on

  • Traveler has attempted use the kiosk during the configurable enforcement lockout
  • Biometric pre-verify check returned a fault response
  • The return code from a vetting query was other than normal completion
  • A cancellation command from the kiosk that the traveler processing has been terminated.

Passage Granted
Traveler receives Passage Granted

You can use the regular lines, but in the interest of saving your own time and possibly sanity, there are a couple of other things you can try:

  • If Mobile Passport Control is available at your destination terminal, do passport control from your smartphone. Unfortunately it's not yet available at LAX.
  • If APC kiosks continually reject you, the thing to do is to file with the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. This program is designed to resolve issues with repeatedly being delayed entry or referred to secondary. You'll be assigned a redress control number which you can add to your airline bookings. If you decide to do this, keep your kiosk receipts as you will need to submit them.
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    The OP stated that "they always give me an X." Looking at the above codes (love codes), the only one that could always show is "ER" (law enforcement). For example, if a passenger was ever fingerprinted by the police, for any reason, this code will forever appear at customs, even with no criminal record. The OP could look into a biometric pass. It is a 'red tape' issue. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 19:27
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    @DominicCerisano He could also always have goods to declare, or have gotten a completely different reason on each attempt. Whatever the reason, the referral codes may help to understand what happened on a specific entry. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 22:01
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    @MichaelHampton it is unlikely kiosks would mysteriously reject someone every time just by coincidence. These kiosks are there to streamline security, not to create further bottlenecks. As I said, the biometric or "speedpass" system might be able to filter out whatever is causing this because of its enhanced background check. If they have your fingerprints anyway, might as well go the full monty. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:09
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    Yeah, "ER" for an "enforcement referral," whatever that means. Took over an hour to clear immigration even though I was the third person off the plane. Luckily my connecting flight was delayed.... Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 1:34
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Yeah, definitely go straight to TRIP. By "enforcement" they generally mean law enforcement. If you don't get redress for whatever it is, you can count on lengthy delays in immigration every time you enter the US. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 2:06

My wife is a US citizen; I'm not. As a matter of solidarity, whenever and wherever we travel, we go through immigration together. So I can say with certainty that as recently as last Christmas, entering at Boston (where they have a lovely set of automated kiosks), US citizens can queue up with the hoi polloi and have their passport looked at by a human. No suggestion has ever been made (in my earshot) that she should not have done this.

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    @Tom I'm a UK citizen, but I also have a very early-issue RFID passport (which has never worked, and which the Home Office declines to replace for free) and I enter the US on a B1/B2 visa rather than ESTA. In my case, it's just simpler to queue, and talk to a human being.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 9:26
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    And how many hours have you both wasted in queues, because you refuse to pay for a new passport? Sure, it would be nice if they replaced it for free but there comes a point where the replacement fee is the lesser evil. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 10:44
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    @DavidRicherby you are, of course, completely free to pay to replace your own broken passport should you find yourself in such a situation. I am free not to do so, and I don't; not because I can't count wasted time, but because I think it would be wrong to do. In any case, because I'm on a visa, my journey through US immigration would not be any faster with a working RFID (unless I also paid to sign up for Global Entry), and in the UK I qualify to join the (fast-moving) e-passport queue (which I do, then fail at the gate, and get fast-tracked to the head of the regular queue).
    – MadHatter
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 11:30
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    @FiringSquadWitness It also may have just been that at the time, the US line was very crowded and the non-US line may well have been shorter, so I think they were trying to encourage using it.
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 4:08
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    @MadHatter your wife can take you to the US citizens queue. I've done this repeatedly at several different airports, both with a foreign girlfriend (who lived in a different country from me) and with my foreign wife (with whom I live in the US). You can also take your US-citizen wife to the EU/EEA/CH passports queue in the Schengen area as long as the UK remains in the freedom-of-movement regime; this is explicit in the Schengen codes.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 20:05

The kiosks are optional, though neither the signs nor employees tell you that. I've used the non-US line tho I'm a US citizen. No hassle from the CBP inspector, a couple of times a curious question as to why I used that line, once the standard " what is the purpose of your trip to the US?" because he hadn't noticed I had a US PP.
Bottom line, it's unusual but OK.


Yes, they are most definitely optional, it’s in the CBP internal site:

APC kiosks are only intended to facilitate processing entering the United States. There is no requirement that you must use them. If you do not wish to use them, you should inform the Airport Official or CBP Officer directing the lines or watching the kiosks and ask where you should go to be manually processed. You can also ask to speak with a Supervisor if you are denied manual processing.

The problem is, many times it’s an “airport official” or in other words, a minimum wage employee that obviously isn’t aware of all the policies.

I refuse to, as I typically pay outrageous fees as part of my airline ticket, and I don’t want to spend $54 to do a federal employees job by using a machine.

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