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Arriving in Chicago O' Hare airport?

Travel Forums North America Arriving in Chicago O' Hare airport?

1. Posted by geri_d (Budding Member 2 posts) 6y

Hi there,
First time posting here and I was hoping someone could help.
In a few days I'm flying into Chicago from London Heathrow. It's my first time flying long distance and also my first time visiting America (I'm going to my friend's wedding and staying for a week).
I suffer from OCD and although I have planned my trip well, I need to know what to expect upon arrival.
Can anyone tell me about their experiences upon arrival in O 'Hare? How long is the Immigration queue? What do the customs/ security officals ask? Are they friendly?

Thank you in advance!

2. Posted by beerman (Respected Member 1631 posts) 6y

Hey geri,

Flying into Chicago O'Hare is really no different than any other international destination. Hopefully, your plane will not arrive at the same time as 4 other jumbo jets with 1500 people all trying to get through Customs and Immigration at the same time. Have a look at this link for some more info about the airport and Chicago: Chicago Airport System
There are also some Chicago sightseeing sections if you have time.

As far as Immigration is concerned, they are, if not friendly, at least mostly cordial. They are government workers, and they have good days and bad days just like everyone else. I have seen them on both, but as long as you are patient with the work that they have to do, you'll be fine. As for the O/C, I would be open and honest with the officers, because it is possible that they would be suspicious of your "body language" and movements (depending on the severity of your condition). It would certainly not hurt to have a note from your doctor stating that you have this condition. Remember, these officers are trained to look for anything "out of the ordinary", and twitching, counting, etc. (again, depending on the severity of the condition) will seem "out of the ordinary" to them. Best to not add to their suspicion if you can allay it up front.

Make sure you have all your paperwork ready for them when they ask for it. Put yourself in their shoes: If you were behind the desk asking someone for their documents (and there is a queue 300 people long), would you want to wait 5 minutes while they dug through their pockets or bags to find their passport, visa, etc? Not really. So help them as much as you can by being efficient - with any luck, you wait in queue won't take very long (could be 10 minutes, could be 2 hours) and you'll be on your way. I've always found that a well-timed smile and a friendly demeanor goes further than anything else at making the Immigration line shorter.

The Transportation Safety Administration has a nice website that has useful tips for travelers. I can't seem to get it to load at the moment, grrrr, but see www.tsa.gov and search around the site.

Good luck with your trip. By the way, temps are predicted to be around -2C at night and a max of 10C during the day next week.

3. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1993 posts) 6y

No one can say how long the queue will be - it depends on that particular day's load at that airport, but generally, US Customs is prepared for several hundred people arriving at the same time. I would guess no more than 15 minutes.

What do they ask? They want to know where you're coming from, and what other areas of the world you've been in in the last few weeks. They want to know if you have enough money/credit to support yourself while in the USA. They want to know the purpose of your trip. They might ask if you have a hotel reservation and where. They want to know if you're carrying food or plants in your luggage. They also ask if you're carrying large sums of cash and or drugs. (If you're carrying a gift, I would leave it unwrapped.)

Are they pleasant? Sometimes yes, sometimes no! Really depends on how busy they are - generally they're very business-like and show little emotion at these large airports.

You have nothing to worry about (tell them it's your first time)

That's very good advice about the letter from your doctor

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Mar-2010, at 12:09 by Daawgon ]

4. Posted by geri_d (Budding Member 2 posts) 6y

Thanks for your replies
I don't twitch or anything, my condition is not so severe as that :)
I'll make sure I have all of my paperwork ready for inspection. I'm preparing myself for a long wait!