So I’ve arrived in the USA! The whole entry process was pretty painless considering all the paperwork and waiting there had been! My ‘Point of Entry’ was Chicago O’Hare Airport. I double checked with a worker to ensure I was joining the correct line. ‘Visas and First Time ESTAS’. I was travelling with my family, they went down the returning ESTA channel and I ended up being put behind them in the line anyway! This was helpful as it solved any ‘strange’ security questions, I was told I could just go up to the desk with them.
Arriving Into the US on an Immigrant Visa
The first part of the process was standard ‘visitor’ procedure. I handed over my passport, landing card and the big ‘DO NOT OPEN’ Visa envelope. My fingerprints and photo were taken and then I was asked the following questions:
- Does my husband already live in the States?
- How long have we been married?
- How much money was I carrying in cash (around $2000…I believe only over $10,000 gets questioned).
The border guy then told my family they could go and collect all of our baggage and I was taken into a back room full of benches and around 20 other people that were waiting too. He took my paperwork to an office out the back and I sat and waited until my name was called. This took all of around 5 minutes! I was handed back my passport, minus the visa pack and told to have a good day! Security pointed me back in the right direction.
I met back up with my family at the now empty baggage carousel. I was so relieved to see all of our bags had turned up! (Only one had slight damage!) We joined the Customs lines. As I was emigrating, the customs official told me to go down channel 2, I asked if my family could come with me just to help carry my bags and he said that was fine.
A few minutes later he came and found me, he hadn’t realised my paperwork had already been processed and told us it was fine to just go through as they were happy with the declaration form so didn’t really need to check us any further. Hurray!
And that was it!
It took 1 hour from the plane landing to getting through arrivals, but the airport was surprisingly quiet considering it was the summer holidays. (I have had to wait at the border for over 2 hours before when travelling on an ESTA!)
The part that was most confusing was checking in for my flight in London. I flew with United and I was unable to check in online because there were only options for if you were a resident or a visitor. I was neither! I was in Limbo, just because I have my visa pack didn’t mean I was a resident, the final part is processed once you cross the border. Once I was an Heathrow, there was an option on the check in kiosk for travelling on a visa which wasn’t online. There was a little box to enter the visa number, this is the red number on the visa page that’s stuck in the passport.
I was travelling on the CR1 visa from London Heathrow to Chicago, as always my visa posts are just to be used as a guideline, other people’s experiences may be different. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below, or if you’d like to send me a private message, my email address can be found on my About Me page!