Florida Guide > Travelling
US Immigration and Customs
The views in this article are purely those of the writer and are expressed as we have personally found the situation.
Whichever format of air-travel one chooses be it a direct flight to Orlando, Tampa or Miami to start your holiday in the Sunshine State of Florida the act of passing through US Immigration and Customs has to take place.
As owners of a Gulf Coast villa in Rotonda, Englewood our preferred route is a flight from our home city of Bristol to Tampa via Newark Liberty Airport which is where Immigration and US Customs take place allowing for a relatively quick exit at Tampa to the car rental areas.
Experience has told us over the years not to make a mad rush to the door of the aircraft once it reaches the gate although it is tempting having sat in a cramped seat for many hours and those with small children must be aching to get off the plane to have some space. No matter how quick or slow disembarking the aeroplane it will not make the luggage arrive into the luggage hall any quicker! ! !
Having made your way off the plane, blood having found where your legs are and you follow the crocodile of fellow passengers to the Immigration Hall the best advice I find is then to go and use the Rest Rooms!
US Nationals naturally ‘get in line’ on their own whilst all other passengers form a snaking queue at the head of which is generally a member of staff who will give a quick glance to your Visa Waiver or Visa form to ensure you have completed it correctly including the reverse portion on the Visa Waiver.
Generally you will not have a choice of which queue you then get allotted but if you are lucky enough to have a choice I would choose to stand behind what seem like business people as they seem to get through immigration without too many questions.
Upon reaching your allotted immigration officer, they after all just doing their job and protecting their country, they do often seem to be somewhat disinterested and we have known to have our details taken and passports stamped with barely a word spoken. On the other hand you can be lucky and get a cheerful officer who is glad to see the British in their country. Fingerprints and photographs taken and you then start the next portion of your Terminal voyage to the luggage hall.
Find the belt number according to your flight, and wait. Luggage trollies are chargeable but if it is easier to pull out a credit card than fumble around for your dollar currency by all means use a credit card. When you get to returning your luggage trolley to the rack make sure you wheel it onto the rail and then collect the returning quarter coin that will pop down into the tray.
Luggage collected, family gathered, white and blue customs forms handed to officer you are on your way.
Passengers travelling on an interconnecting flight must then locate the section whereby your newly found luggage will be, most probably, tossed onto yet another moving belt to disappear – some do miss flights if time is tight but in our experience they are brought to your door the following day, so a few essentials in hand luggage are generally worth it.
Happy travelling – just remember, sunshine, Mickey Mouse or the peace of the Gulf Beaches are there waiting for you.
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Page added on: 1 November 2007
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