Getting Through Customs and Immigration at Miami Airport
Immigration wait times at MIA just got longer.
Flying to the USA requires a certain degree of patience when you land at Miami International airport. The USA immigration laws are some of the strictest in the world. Visas to work here are scarce, and green cards enabling people to live here without restriction are very hard to get. Getting through immigration at Miami airport is not easy, with the officers questioning and detaining many passengers as they pass through the busy gateway into the USA. The new Customs and Immigration hall opened last month, with the promise of shorter lines and quicker processing times. However, the new system has increased wait times and infuriated passengers visiting Miami.
The new immigration hall opened behind schedule last month, at a cost of 180 million dollars. With 72 passenger lanes, it is the length of a football field, so surely this should speed up waiting times? According to the airport’s Communications Director, the old immigration hall in Terminal E used to take an hour or more to get through and the new facility should quicken things up. “We are thinking, on an average, it will be 15 to 20 minutes less than it was before.”
Americans Go To The Front Of The Line
The reality though, is far different. The new arrivals hall is split into Visitors, Residents and Citizens. This is a new concept for Miami immigration, which previously let US residents and citizens pass through the same lane. Now, if you have a green card, you are also in a huge line of people and are not allowed to pass through with US citizens, no matter how long you have lived here or if you are married to an American. The visitor lines are long and slow moving and the staff are unfriendly.
If you are a US citizen you seemingly get special treatment, and the staff will tell you to go in front of other waiting visitors and residents straight through to a waiting officer. US citizens have no line, as they are waved through at the expense of everyone else waiting. Is this a way to welcome guests and tourists to the City of Miami? By giving them a longer waiting period at the unfriendly immigration hall? I think not.
Online blogs, forums and articles have been loudly complaining about MIA’s new immigration wait times, with many visitors being made to wait over two hours. Trip Advisor forums are full of complaints, with members stating:
Officials at MIA say the new hall is here to stay, with the possibility of re opening Terminal E’s hall in the future. Many of the international passengers land at Terminal E or F and have a long 20 minute walk to the new hall located in terminal D. I can only hope terminal E will reopen for their sakes. Not many people want a 20 minute walk after a being cramped on board a long international flight.
If you do find yourself flying to Miami from another country, make sure to prepare yourself for your trip, and a longer wait at immigration. In the meantime, please also remember to do the following:
Have you completed your ESTA form?
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is required by all people traveling to America from a country that takes part in the Visa Waiver Program. These countries include most of the European Union, four countries in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. If you are traveling from these countries, you do not need to go to an embassy to apply for a regular 90 day travel visa, but you will need to complete the ESTA online form or you will not be permitted to travel.
Landing at MIA if you are a Visitor
Passing through immigration when you land in America can be a daunting experience. Even with a visa, you don’t have the right to enter the US; only the immigration officer can make that decision. US immigration officials are trained to suspect that everyone who doesn’t have the right to live and work here is a potential illegal immigrant, and so they question everyone for as long as they deem necessary. Unfortunately this leads to long lines in the immigration hall. Miami and New York’s JFK airport are widely known to have the worst wait times in the country.
Be careful of connecting flight times
Not everyone passing through Miami is coming to stay. The reason Miami has such a busy airport is while it is a tourist destination, it is also a major airline hub. Many people connect through here from South America. If you connect in Miami and it is the first American airport in your trip, you will need to clear immigration here. So keeping in mind the above waiting times, and make sure to have at least 2-3 hours in between your flights.
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