We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Customs and Immigration

Auckland, New...
3 posts
Save Topic
Customs and Immigration

Dear everyone - we are travelling to the USA in October as a same sex couple and after reading some responses we don't know if we should approach the immigration officer (at LAX) as a 'family' or separate - this is a trip of a life time and we don't want to start our holiday by annoying a busy immigration official. Any advise is most welcome. Thanks

6-Hour Los Angeles City Tour
200 reviews
from US$79.00*
Special Offer
Best of Los Angeles Tour from Anaheim
180 reviews
from US$57.99*
US$67.99
Los Angeles Hop-on Hop-off Double...
581 reviews
from US$49.00*
Go Los Angeles Card
129 reviews
from US$85.00*
West Hollywood...
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles
Level Contributor
31,067 posts
64 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Customs and Immigration

Well, if you were an unmarried heterosexual couple, it wouldn't be unreasonable for both of you to approach immigration at the same time. In such a case, you wouldn't present your passports simultaneously (after all the inspector can only look at one at a time. If you were a married couple, that would be different; the inspector could look at both passports simultaneously).

So, bottom line, if you want to approach simultaneously, no one is going to make you feel uncomfortable but it's not going to get you through the process any quicker; if you want to approach one at a time, that will work just as well.

LA
Level Contributor
10,043 posts
1 review
Save Reply
2. Re: Customs and Immigration

Just get in line and go through. Makes no difference to immigration as long as each of you has proper documents to enter the US.

Thousand Oaks...
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
11,718 posts
24 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Customs and Immigration

The immigration officers will be annoyed at whatever you decide to do. Don't let it bother you..... It's their nature.

San Francisco, Ca
Level Contributor
16,039 posts
73 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Customs and Immigration

I think they take whoever is traveling together, together, regardless of actual relationship. If they don't want to talk to you at the same time, they'll send one of you back to the yellow line.

Manhattan Beach...
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach
Level Contributor
20,352 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Customs and Immigration

Maybe my memory is off, but as a married couple I thought we went one at a time through Immigration. Or maybe that's the way we did it in Europe. My husband has me go first, and I wait for him, just pass the booth.

West Hollywood...
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles
Level Contributor
31,067 posts
64 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Customs and Immigration

SFSusan said it best. Oh, and Btw, say "G'Day" and smile, if you want (not necessary and he/she probsbly won't respond). Most people are speechless at Immigration, Imagine having a job, processing hundreds of people per day and no one talks to you. I'd be angry if that were my job!

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
4,340 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Customs and Immigration

Go through one at a time. If not, you will anger an already angry immigration officer. Prepare for the worst, rudest treatment.

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
477 posts
Save Reply
8. Re: Customs and Immigration

Last time I was going through in April at LAX, a same sex couple tried to go through together and got into a shouting match with the agent because he told them to come through one at a time. They took the agent's badge number down and demanded to go through together, saying they had been through together before with no problem. Meanwhile my husband and I (straight couple) went through together with no issue. I really think it depends on who you get though. You may need to fight about it if you do. I agree with the above, I always prepare for the rudest treatment so I am not shocked when I get up there, my husband always has a hard time coming through as a green card holder!

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
51,316 posts
149 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Customs and Immigration

It has been a couple of years since I stood in line to see an ICE officer I use the automated Global Entry machines which are quite fast and rarely have more than 1-2 people in line.

Having said that, when we travel as a family, we walk to the counter together and hand all our passports and have had no issues and ICE people who joke with our teens. I've seen couples walk together and hand passports together and here is why I say that.

There is one piece of paper that is mandatory and that is the customs declaration and it is ONE PER FAMILY and if you have one Customs form then you walk up to ICE with that one form and x passports

In any case, when the Supreme court made its recent ruling about DOMA , I heard on CNN that until now, one had to fill out two customs declarations for a couple. With this from what I understand, they would need to fill out one. Is this already in effect since the ruling ? I don't know but that paper is what I have seen families use when the approach the ICE

In the past before Global Entry, if i traveled with colleagues, we would each fill out the Customs form separately and approach the counter one at a time.

The PP posted about an incident in April but the DOMA Case was more recent and one has to start somewhere....

Edited: 09 July 2013, 19:35
West Hollywood...
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles
Level Contributor
31,067 posts
64 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Customs and Immigration

I imagine it has a lot to do with how easy it is to process your paperwork. In the case of a married (straight) couple and/or family, the last names on the paperwork are (usually) the same. Even if they aren't, there is a precedent for straight, married women to have their own last name.

In the case of a gay married couple, I'm guessing that most men will not change their names (or hyphenate?) so that's virgin territory, so to be speak and will take time for the inspectors to get used to. The OP didn't mention whether he was married or not but I can't imagine an inspector asking him for his marital status in order to decide whether to process the passports separately or at the same time. To complicate matters, there will be gay couples who will never get married because they don't like the label. So, there are lots of gray areas...

Perhaps, the best answer is to say: Contact ICE and ask. But, again, no matter what you're advised, the job is not a pleasant one so you can get cranky people doing it. I imagine it has a lot to do with what time of day you arrive. If the inspector has been 'there all day', he/she is apt to be a little surly. I say "Good Afternoon" in a pleasant but not overly-cheerful way and so far, I've had no problems -- although I will say: I rarely, get a verbal response.