me (US citizen) flying into JFK from my home in Germany with my German girlfriend, and my three teenage kids from an earlier marriage (dual citizens). can Martina, the German girlfriend, pass through the U.S. line with us, or does she need to go through on her own? Yes, she's a big girl and can handle it, but if it's not necessary then I want to stay as one group. Thanks for your insight!


I've done this on several occasions, without the kids. My then-girlfriend and I did not reside together (nor even in the same country). On one occasion, the CBP officer told us we should ignore the airport security staff who told us we had to separate ("they don't know what they're talking about").

If your girlfriend lives with you then you actually must use the same line, because you're supposed to use one customs form for the whole family, and the applicable definition of family includes cohabiting partners:

Effective January 17, 2014, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) broadened the definition of  "members of a family residing in one household" to include long-term same-sex couples and other domestic relationships.

Emphasis added; source: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/441/~/travelers-eligible-to-file-a-joint-or-family-declaration-on-a-cbp-form-6059b

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The first thing you should investigate is if she qualifies for Automated Passport Control. You and the kids can use Mobile Passport

Using these services, you (almost) bypass the lines.

Beyond that, the CBP Officers themselves can process any person so any Officer can process your whole group. The question is whether or not they consider you a 'family' since you're not married. Again, it really doesn't matter technically but 'just a girlfriend' and the kids might seem a bit suspicious.

The separate lines are mostly about traffic flow. I think it would be easier to use the appropriate lines but if you really want to stay together, she should go with you and the kids to the Citizen queue.

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  • This is incorrect. I've done the same with non-US-citizen girlfriends on numerous occasions. CBP officers have even advised me that we should not pay attention to the airport security staff who told us that we needed to separate. – phoog Jun 1 '17 at 15:40
  • @phoog I posted that quickly to get an answer in before the close hammer hit. I've since updated it. Please re read. – Johns-305 Jun 1 '17 at 15:40
  • Well for one thing if they all live together they're supposed to use the same customs form, which means that they have to use the same line. There's no reason to separate. – phoog Jun 1 '17 at 15:41
  • @phoog Please, I've always asked for comments so answers can be improved before downvoting. – Johns-305 Jun 1 '17 at 15:42
  • @phoog OP makes no mention of cohabitation though. – Johns-305 Jun 1 '17 at 15:47

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