Information about the procedure for entering the United States
With your ESTA permit in your hands, you look forward to your time in the USA.
In order to avoid the anticipation of your stay, we will guide you through the entire course of your journey: from packing your suitcase to stepping out of the American airport.
Because the journey is more relaxed when you know what to expect!
Preparing for your trip
Book An early flight ticket, car rental, hotel etc. In the case of air tickets, the information must necessarily match the ESTA data, otherwise the entry can be refused!
Put your documents together a few days before the trip: airline tickets, passport, ESTA permit, and booking confirmation.
Your suitcase may be searched at the borders. When you complete your suitcase, please only use a TSA lock. This can be opened by the airport staff and does not have to be broken up. If your suitcase has been opened, you will be informed by an information sheet in your suitcase.
Online check-in & API data form
For most airlines, you can check in online one week before departure. Check all data using your Passport. Some passengers are pre-selected for an advanced security check, so online check-in is not possible in this case. So, if you have problems with online check-in and all data is correct, contact the appropriate airline.
Frequently, you fill out the API form at the same time as check-in. This will inform the U.S. Aviation Safety Authority of your passport and residency information in the United States.
At the departure airport
We recommend to be at the airport at least two hours in advance. If you carry luggage-except hand luggage-three hours is appropriate.
You may need to go through a second security check. Check your boarding pass: Find the name "SSSS" ("Secondary security Screening Selection") You will be searched a second time. If you choose to do so, you should plan to spend four hours instead of three hours (or three instead of two).
The reasons for this second security check are not very clear - a one-way ticket that has been booked in the short term can be considered as a selection criterion.
On the plane
During the flight, you have to fill in a customs declaration (for families, a customs declaration is also sufficient), in which you will be asked for customs/prohibited goods. For example, the carrying of food or more than 10,000 US $ cash is prohibited. If you have answered yes to a question, you must go to the customs control at the airport.
The customs declaration is issued only at the airport.
You can also complete the customs declaration at the APC vending machine if you meet the requirements (see below for more information).
At the destination airport
After landing, join the other passengers to the immigration hall, where you will receive your declaration of entry.
The use of mobile devices is strictly prohibited in the immigration hall, baggage collection and customs. Unfortunately, you still have to expect long waiting times, unless you meet the requirements for using an APC machine.
With Automated passport control
If you are allowed to use an APC machine, it is advisable to do so (German language is adjustable). This allows you to avoid long waiting times.
To be able to use an APC machine, you must meet the following requirements:
— you are travelling with an ESTA permit
— have travelled to the United States at least once since 2008
You can also fill in the Customs declaration at the APC machine.
You enter all necessary information yourself in the vending machines, scan your passport and take a photo of yourself.
At the end, the confirmation will be printed to move to the exit of the immigration hall. The confirmation will be shown to the immigration officer, who may ask you a few questions.
If there is an "x" on your confirmation, you have to go to the counter, unfortunately. Since this is chosen very randomly, you do not need to worry about it.
Without an APC-Automat
If you do not meet the requirements for using the APC machine, you must contact the counter.
While waiting, put all documents together, including booking confirmation of hotels, credit card, customs confirmation, as they are valid as confirmation of your financial means.
At the counter, an immigration officer asks you a few questions about your entry, takes fingerprints and takes a photo of you.
The entry declaration is finally stapled into your passport.
The next stop is the luggage pick-up. As usual, wait for your luggage and take it off the line.
This is also necessary for layovers:
In the USA, it is obligatory for the passenger to identify their baggage. Therefore, you have to pick up your luggage and check in again, even if you have not reached your destination airport yet.
If you have specified customs goods in your customs declaration, you still have to go to customs. You may also be called to customs even without giving any information.
After that you have successfully carried out your entry and can now exit the airport building.