US immigration: at final destination or 1st landing?
I am flying to Gunisson where I have arranged to hire 2 bikes for 3 weeks.
My flight schedule has been changed.
I fly out of Rio to Gunisson, via Houston and Denver.
I use united Airlines all the way to Denver then a smaller company.
My issue is that I only have 1:30 minutes to change planes in Houston.
My concern is that it may not be enough time if I have to go through immigration there. ( I remember last time I went to the US queuing for 3 hours for the pleasure of being let in and being allowed to spend my money there! I did not return until ... well, now, 11 years later! )
We have European passports so no worries about visa here.
So here is my question: will we go through long queues immigration at final destination? Or at 1st port of call (houston)? Or Denver (I have 2h30 mns there)?
If it is at 1st port of call (Houston) we may have to change our schedule as we won't have enough time and miss our connection!
If anyone can tell us it would be very helpful!
Or maybe immigration has got faster and more efficient!? (we live in hope!)
thanks in advance for the info!
Unless things have changed since my last visit you will go through immigration at you first point of entry. You can speed things up by filling out the green waiver form before you leave Rio. You should be able to get these forms from the airline you are flying with. If not try to get a copy so you know what to fill out. Sometimes they don't have them on the plane and you then waste time asking or looking for them. Visitors with a visa will fill out a white form so be careful.
Once you get off the plane get to immigration as fast as possible and then politely ask if you can go to the front off the line. The officials are sometimes quite helpful and sometimes not. The last time I went we got through quite quickly even though there was a long line.
Always point of entry, and yes, 1.5 hours is cutting it very thin. I usually try to schedule a 3 hour layover if I have to fly through the US (which I avoid if I can). Try to get seats in the front of the cabin and let the flight attendants know. They may usher you out in front of everyone else and then run like hell and hope for the best and that no other international flight arrives at the same time.
Also, it's not just immigration you have to worry about. You will also have to pick up your bags and go through customs. Coming from SA this might take a while, especially if you fit the profile, if you know what I mean. On the bright side, there is usually a baggage drop off just outside customs. You just put it on the conveyor belt.
You will also have to go through another security screening before you get to your gate. Even if you make it, your bags may not. If I were you, I would try to change the flights. I have done it in 1.5 hours in LAX a few times, but my bags didn't.
I assume you will be entering under the Visa Waiver program, in which case you must get pre-approval by applying online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. It'll cost you 14 bucks, but it's good for 2 years. This replaces the form you used to have to fill out on the plane.
thanks for the info guys. I will contact the airline.
Originally I was supposed to spend almost 5 h in Houston and only an hour in Denver... but now it is all messed up!
Let's hope I can find a decent schedule, if not, I am not sure how i will make it to Gunisson from Denver!
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