Sunday, January 20, 2008

Customs and Immigration

There are a whole slew of families traveling to Taiwan to bring their children home within the next few weeks, so I wanted to share some additional travel experiences, including the all-important topic what to expect when you reach the United States.

Although we flew non-stop from Taipei to LAX, experiences entering the US via San Francisco International should be similar.

Customs was, for a change, a very smooth and welcome end to our long journey. We were actually a bit nervous, having tromped all over Vietnam and Cambodia after leaving the US for Taiwan, so we braced ourselves.

We were near the front of the new immigrant stampede, so I think the folks guiding people to the various lines identified us as parents of a newly adopted baby right away (perhaps from the "deer in the headlights" looks on our faces). We were whisked right through to the front of the line and let me tell you, it felt gooood to be whisked, especially as we looked back at the poor, tired new immigrants piling up in line behind us.

The gentleman manning our line smiled(!) at us and asked us for our paperwork. We handed over the mysterious sealed envelope that we had been given back at the American Institute in Taiwan (Note: Remember to have that thing handy! Do NOT check it in your luggage!!) and were told to go get our luggage and come back.

I held Island Boy (in the Baby Bjorn) off to the side of the luggage carousel while hubby dove in to the crowd to grab the bags. There was the part where I almost got arrested for taking a photo. Yes, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to snap a photo of hubby grabbing the bags - such a critical part of the journey as it was. The minute the camera came out, a very burly federal agent appeared and stood very, VERY close to me and ordered me to delete the photo. Yes, Sir! Consider it done, Sir! Yikes!!!

Once we had our bags, we went back to the very nice gentleman that had our paperwork. Although there were plenty of people waiting in his line and he was helping someone else at that moment, he handed us our papers, smiled and said "Welcome to the United States!". I got a chill when he said those words. It was such a thrill to be reminded how much I love this country and what a terror it was to think that the journey had just begun!

Overall, customs was really smooth and easy. If for some reason no one shows up to whisk you to the front of the line, seek out someone official looking and tell them that you have a new baby and you would like to know where the expedited line for that is. Insist on being whisked! It's one of the few opportunities for you to do that in life, so carpe diem!

p.s. Don't forget to "go" before you land! You may not have access to facilities until you make it through immigration and customs!


mly95014 said...

Once again very, very helpful information. Thank you so much! We will be flying into SFO so I will definitely keep my fingers crossed and ask for the expedited line for adopted children.


Anonymous said...

I loved catching up on your blog and all of Island Boy's latest adventures. Your holiday travels wore me out just reading about them. Thanks for all of the great travel tips. Can't wait to hear those words "Welcome (back!) to the U.S."

Judy said...

you were definitely more lucky than we were. we told the "official" looking people that we are adopting, yet, still had to wait in line. However, we did get our paperwork faster than the others. can't wait to catch up with you now we are "back to normal" again.