Customs and Layover Question

Old Dec 10th, 2005, 09:31 AM
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Customs and Layover Question

Hi there,
My wife and I are preparing to fly from the US to Italy in February, and are about to book a flight. Flights generally have a change in Europe, usually in Germany, before going to Florence.
Do you have to pass through a customs check when you are changing planes in a country that is neither your origin nor your destination? If so, how long would be safe to be laid over at that airport? And when returning to the US, do you go through customs at the point of entry airport, if changing planes, or at the destination airport? We want to be sure to book flights that leave us enough time.
Thanks - Ben Skolnik, Burlington, VT
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 09:39 AM
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Hi Ben,

You will generally go thru immigration and customs at your point of entry into a new country. Once you enter the EU, you will not have to go thru customs or immigration again as long as you continue your travels in the EU.

Upon your return, you will again go thru immigration and customs when you enter a new country, which in your case would be your first point of entry into the US.
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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Statia is partly right. You will go thru customs at your final destination. BUT you will go through immigration at your first point of entry into the Schengen zone which includes both Germany and Italy. So if you connect thru Germany, that is where you will go thru immigration.

I assume you are looking at flights on Lufthansa connecting thru either Frankfurt ot Munich. These airports handle immigration very efficiently and quickly. My plane was late, leaving only 20 minutes to get to my connecting gate (originally supposed to be 50 minutes). There was no line at immigration, an efficient line at security and then straight onto a bus leaving for my remotely docked plane. My gate was one of the farthest and I made it with a little less than 5 minutes to spare. Now, I don't recommend anything this tight since it was very nerve-wracking.

If you are connecting in the UK then both customs and immigration are at your final destination. Anything in the Schengen zone (Netherlands, France, etc), immigration will be at your connection airport. Each airport has markedly different efficiencies (I hear CDG is not very efficient). You may want to do a search on this site to see which airports will require approximately what amount of time for connections.
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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Statia hasn't quite got it.

If you're through-checked on one ticket to most EU/EEA destinations, you don't go through Customs until your final stop. But you go through Immigration at the first stop in the Common Travel Area that your final destination is in.

So if you're changing at Frankfurt to an Italian destination, you go through immigration (but not Customs) at Frankfurt, since Italy and Germany are in the Schengen area. If you're changing at London or Zurich (which aren't in Schengen) you don't go through immigration (or Customs) till you get to Italy.

If you have separate tickets for the different legs, you might have to retrieve your bags at the intermediate airport and check in again - which means going through immigration and customs. Customs virtually never trouble you in practice: immigration queues vary widely. It's quite possible for an American arriving at London from Paris to spend longer in the immigration queue than he'd spent on the plane.
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 10:23 AM
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Sorry for my misinformation regarding customs. We just returned from a week in Venice, via Paris, and didn't go thru customs when we arrived Italy. Only immigration in Paris. We walked off the plane in Venice and went directly to the bus to Piazzale Roma with no interaction with anyone.

As a matter of fact, I don't recall going thru customs (only immigration) in either France or Italy in my last two trips to Europe. Maybe I was just tired and didn't notice, but I honestly don't recall seeing customs on either trip. Or could it be because we didn't have checked baggage or that we travel on an EU passport? Strange.

At any rate, thanks for the clarification.
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 11:01 AM
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Statia,

the reason you didn't notice anything is because customs in Europe is, in most cases, non existent. What I mean is that once you land at your destination, and collect luggage if you have any, you are given a choice of walking through the GREEN door - nothing to declare or the RED door - something to declare. It does not mean you can't get stopped and searched if you walk through the GREEN door, but about 95% of the time, you won't even see an agent posted at the door.
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Hi B,

>... when returning to the US, do you go through customs at the point of entry airport, if changing planes, or at the destination airport?<

You will go through Customs and Immigration at your first airport.

As in Europe, the major delay is Immigration, not Customs.

I don't care for connections of less than 90 min.



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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 11:50 AM
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Why does immigration take so long if an American flys from Paris to London? The many times I've taken the ferry or train, there was virtually no wait - just Commander Dalgleish over at the side watching who came through.
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Old Dec 11th, 2005, 03:08 AM
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>Why does immigration take so long if an American flys from Paris to London?<

Probably a conspiracy by anti-American subversives to make our lives more difficult and rip us off.

Have you noticed that, even though the British understand and speak American, they pretend that they don't?

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Old Dec 11th, 2005, 05:07 AM
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"It's quite possible for an American arriving at London from Paris to spend longer in the immigration queue than he'd spent on the plane." - flanneruk
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Old Dec 11th, 2005, 07:06 AM
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I think flanneruk means it's possible that ANY TRAVEL will spend more time in queue for immigration than on the CDG-LHR flight.
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Old Dec 11th, 2005, 07:07 AM
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I mean, any non-EU traveler. Unless they have seperate lines for US Citizens, which I highly doubt.
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Old Dec 11th, 2005, 07:40 AM
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Yes, I got all that the first time.

Can anyone answer my original question - 12/10/2005, 03:50 pm
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