Arriving by plane at a US airport

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Plane landing with runway lit up

Landing Plane

What happens when arriving by plane at a US airport? A few hours before landing at the US airport of entry, the passengers will be handed a form that needs to be filled and given to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. Not all members of the family need to fill out individual forms, only one form per family is required. Though any member of the family can fill out the form, it is suggested that a “responsible” member fills it out with his/her information. In order to fill the form, you will need your passport and boarding pass. If the visitors do not feel confident filling out the form themselves, they can also request the onboard crew member to help. Please make sure that you have filled in the form that was handed out in the plane. This will save you some time. The procedure is very simple.

  1. After the plane has landed and you exit the plane, follow the signs for International arrivals, Customs, and Immigration. Once you are in the passport check area, enter the queue for Non-US residents, stand in one of the open lines and wait your turn. Place the completed form in the front cover of your passport.
  2. A CBP officer will call you to review your documents when it’s your turn. All the members of the family can go together. It is suggested to first hand over the passport with the form and then hand over the passports of all the family members. The office may ask you some questions such as, “What is the purpose of your trip?”, vacation, in your case. “Did you bring any food items?” If you have mithai you can reply “cooked sweets”. Fingerprints and a photo may be taken for each member. The officer will return the forms and passports. Check all the passports to make sure that they have been stamped properly. Check for the visa type and the date stamped. This date governs the duration till when you can stay in US. If there are any mistakes, it’s easier to get it fixed right there.
  3. Head over to the baggage claim to get your bags. After collecting your bags, start going towards the exit and hand over the form to the CBP officers standing at checkpoints just after the baggage claim. The CBP officer may ask you to report to secondary check area for further inspection of your baggage. Another officer or CBP agriculture specialist may do visual inspection of your stuff, looking for items not allowed into US. These checks are mostly random, so follow the instructions and truthfully answer the questions being asked. Head over to the final checkpoint and hand your form to the CBP officer.
  4. If this is your final destination, follow signs to the exit. Otherwise, if this is not your final destination, you will have to check your bags back in and go through the security check again. Areas for re-check-in the bags are generally located close to the CBP final check points. After handing over the bags, check for the latest flight and get information in the monitors and head towards gate after clearing the security. Go to your gate and board your next flight.

For more up to date information, check CPB website directly.

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