In Transit in USA Does Not Exist

Avoid Changing Planes in the USA



Visiting Costa Rica from the UK recently we had to change planes in the USA in Houston Texas.  We had assumed we would simply transit Houston airport, as you would in Europe and be in the departure lounge awaiting our international flight to Costa Rica within a few minutes of landing.

Holding British passports and having visited the USA from the UK within the last year, nothing indicated that anything would be differentwhen we checked in on line.

When we arrived in Houston however, we were very glad we had 3 hours to spare between flights.

Two hours of that was taken up standing in line to clear customs and immigration to re-enter the very same departure area, in the very same terminal where we had originally landed.  And it was just as bad on the way back home.

Had we know in advance that transiting a USA airport would be such a pain we would have investigated more carefully the alternative ways of travelling from the Europe to Costa Rica.

It seems that USA does not acknowledge the concept of “in transit”, where a passenger moves from one international flight to another without passing though Customs and Immigration.

In most USA airports, terminals are not reserved for international flights.  At many airports they use the same gates for both international and domestic flights departures.

Therefore there is nothing to stop a passenger getting on an internal plane or even walking out of the airport.

So you must go through the full process of entering the USA.  Unless you a USA citizen/green card holder or a Canadian you will need a USA visa, or be part of the Visa Waiver Program and have paid for a valid ESTA.

On arrival you will be questioned, photographed and fingerprinted.

So all in all “transiting” using an airport the USA is not to be recommended unless you really have to.

Categorised as Road & Rail