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Tips To Beat An Airport Immigration Queue

Immigration queue

There’s nothing worse than dragging your bleary eyed kids off a 13 hour long haul flight, only to find yourself stood in the immigration queue for an hour.  Whilst there’s no quick fix to get to the front of the immigration queue, here are some tips:

  • Consider checking your stroller in at Check-In rather than at the Gate.  The last few times I have flown longhaul, despite disembarking the plane relatively quickly, I’ve had to wait up to 30 minutes for my stroller.  I have then found myself at the back of the Immigration queue!  Of course you do run the risk that your stroller might be late on to the luggage carousel but I still think you will save time if you can be off the aircraft quickly and don’t require it to transport your kids to the Immigration Hall.  If you have a baby/toddler that doesn’t like walking then do remember to pack a carrier e.g. an Ergo
  • If you have cash to splash and are keen to get to your destination asap, investigate VIP Immigration services.  Select destinations such as Bali and Phuket have enterprising companies who, for a fee, will meet you as you disembark the plane and whisk you through the immigration queues.  At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi, USD $50 will get you a golf cart to pick you up off the plane and take you through to your bags.
  • If you are a frequent visitor to a country, you might be able to enrol for a frequent visitor smart card.  Frequent visitors to Hong Kong (hello to my mother in law) can enrol for the e-channel service, thus allowing them to use Hong Kong’s awesome automated machines to enter the country.  Avoid the lengthy Visitors queue; place your travel document in the document reader and off you go.
  • If you are flying business class, check with the air stewards whether there is a priority queue at Immigration you are entitled to use.  
  • Check in online in advance and pick seats near the front of the plane (or request this at check-in). Then get off, kids in tow and sprint to Immigration.
  • In the Immigration Hall, be sure to look tired and harassed, maybe nudging a child to make them cry.  Immigration officers have often taken pity on me and ushered me to the front of a ‘diplomat’  or ‘residents’ queue.
  • My husband hates me for this one but another trick is to spread your family out amongst several queues.  For some reason despite picking the short queue, I always get stuck behind people who have filled out a form incorrectly or are being questioned intensely by an Immigration Officer.  I am excited for the day when my two young daughters are old enough that I can have four queues covered!
  • I’m coming up to seven years in Hong Kong which entitles me to Permanent Residency. Not many perks to this except I might be eligible for an APEC Card which will allow me to waltz through queues in participating countries e.g. Thailand, Vietnam, China & Singapore.  

6 comments

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  1. Rhi Rhi

    Don’t you have to prove you are a frequent business traveller to get an APEC card? Or given your blog, is travelling with children now travelling on business?

    1. Nicola

      I’m not quite sure how it works to prove you are a ‘frequent business traveller’, must look into that. But you’ve raised a good point that even if I did get an APEC card, I would only be able to use it if I was travelling without my kids! Darn them x

  2. 21st Century Mummy

    Ha ha I get my family to stand in different queues and my husband hates it too and once my toddler wouldn’t stop screaming and were quickly ushered to the front if the queue!

    1. Nicola

      clever 🙂

  3. Gaby - Fabuulous. Poufs

    Hi Nicola, i just found Your blog through Britmums and it’s brilliant! I am a mum-to-be pregnant with my first child. Originally from Mexico, we live in the UK, so I will definitely need your tips for long haul flights. Hope you can check my blog when you have the time, all the best!

    1. Nicola

      Hi Gaby, thanks for getting in touch, I will head over to your blog right now! 🙂

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