Customs/Security at LAX(5 Posts)
DD2 is headed to LAX with the school on New Years Eve and she's getting a bit worried about going through customs/security.
What is likely to happen?
I assume the school will organise the ESTA so her visa will be sorted out.
On the plane she will need to fill in a landing card (possibly the school will do this as well, not completely sure).
You mainly just do passport control on the way in, I think we only did security because we were connecting to an internal flight. So be prepared to queue - at Seattle there was a fairly complicated system depending on whether you had ESTA and if it was your first time using it, again the school should see them into the right queue.
I was asked by customs where we were going and what tour company we were using. He then stamped my passport on completely the wrong page, which I'm annoyed about but hey ho.
On the way back out (in Anchorage) we went through security, which involves the usual - no water in water bottles, your liquids in a plastic bag as in Europe. Take off shoes (not like Europe), take out laptops or 'iPads' (which I took to mean large tablets, no-one wanted to see our 8" tablets of the non-Apple variety) and then some rather complicated rules about what does and doesn't go into a tray before it goes through the x-ray machine. Shoes don't, bags don't, I think only coats are meant to go in the tray but she will have plenty of time in the queue to study the many notices explaining what to do.
Then she will probably have to go through a body scan machine - a bit like a shower cubicle and you hold your hands over your head in the pose shown. I think everyone over the age of 12 has to do this, unless you're travelling with someone under 12. In one direction I didn't have to do it, in the other I did.
Connecting flights are a bit of a pain in the arse, but I assume she is flying direct to LAX?
They will all go through as a group but at Immigration at LAX they could well be processed separately. Immigration at LAX tends to not be too awful these days particularly if they have enough staff on to process pax timely. After immigration they will collect their luggage and then proceed through customs.
If she bears these rules re customs in mind; no fruit, meat or dairy in either her case or on her person she should be ok and people are generally waved through. Sometimes they do ask people to have their suitcase x-rayed again but this procedure only takes a couple of minutes.
Security on departure is similar to what tribpot described. Sometimes they do use those full body scanners where you put your hands above your head. She is correct about the age limit as well. Shoes will need to be removed and placed on belt (they could well tell people to manually move their items forward on the belt). Same with coats.
It could well be down to her to sort out her ESTA, they will tell her how to apply for that. (I base that on my DS's secondary school's visit to the US, they were told to apply themselves for their ESTA).
Only ever use the US government's official website for the ESTA because there are a lot of scammers out there.
I would suggest you buy her a luggage strap with a TSA approved lock on it for her suitcase and lock it solely using this, the suitcase itself must remain unlocked on departure for the UK. That is important. This is because the TSA randomly chooses suitcases for inspection on departure and if the body of the case is locked, they will break the lock!. You will know whether the case has been inspected anyway because they leave a white info card in it telling you what they have done.
Thank you both for your replies. She's flying from Sydney to LAX via Auckland.
She's flown before but was particularly concerned about the procedures at LAX as she's heard awful things about American TSA officers and she's getting herself worked up.
We've already got her ESTA organised but will get her a TSA approved locking strap (thanks for the tip about that).
I've heard some stories about overly intimate body searches (Wil Wheaton tweeted about it once, for example) but I didn't see anything like that. I was searched at Heathrow (selected for a random search, the only issue being we were almost last to be called on to the flight already, so ds was convinced the plane would go without us) but it was conducted very professionally and with no problem at all. I think the shower cubicle scans partly do away with the need for a hands-on physical search so are a good thing.
All of my suitcases have TSA locks on them already, so maybe check to see if yours do.
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