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How Long Does It Take to Clear Immigration?


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About 18 minutes just after noon in July at Chicago O’Hare. That’s what this government website says, anyways.

I didn’t think they actually did, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection actually monitors all flight processing times at 23 domestic airports in the U.S. that serve international flights. It then further breaks down that data between seasonal averages during specific times of the year, and even specific time periods during the day. And it definitely includes all the biggies like LAX, JFK and O’Hare.

It pulls together the most recent data if it is available (the most recent I saw was about two months back), and if’s that not possible, it’ll pull data for the exact same period last year so you can gauge exactly how long you’ll be waiting in line before you get to the baggage claim.

Just to be clear, this is what the website says:

It represents the total flight processing time from [plane] arrival to the time the last passenger completes screening at the primary inspection area. It is the longest time that any passenger on a given flight had to wait.

While it’s safe to make sure you’ve got a long enough connection to make another flight or have enough time to reach the store before it closes, the website might help you decide if you’ve got to make a run to be first in line at immigration. This clearly doesn’t matter so much if you’ve got five planeloads of people arriving at the same time as your flight – I’m still packing my running shoes. Beat ya to it!

[U.S. Customs and Border Protection Airport Wait Times]
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