Going Through US Customs At The Airport

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Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina. Today, you’re going to learn to handle one of the scariest situations for any tourist visiting the USA: Going through border control! Ahhh! No stress! Let’s look at what you need to say. Let’s go!

Today’s video is a collaboration I’m doing with Lost In The USA, a French site to help you prepare an awesome trip to the United States. At Lost In The USA, you can get an audio dialogue plus a list of useful phrases, over on their site. The link to their site is in the notes below.

Now imagine, you just landed in New York JFK. After 8 hours of in-flight movies and a noisy baby 3 rows behind you, it’s your turn to approach the customs officer. You have to convince him that, really, you’re here because you want to see the Statue of Liberty, not blow up anything, and not take some American’s job.

So here are the questions you’ll hear when you go through customs or border control, and how to answer them.

HERE YOU GO

First, a useful response. When the customs officer asks you for something, you give it to them and say “Here you go” “Here you go.”  “Can I have your passport please?” “Here you go.” “Do you have your ESTA?” “Here you go.” “Can I see your hotel reservation?” “Here you go.” And if you want some variety in your phrases, you can say “Here you are!” “Here you are!”

“WHERE ARE YOU FLYING IN FROM?”

“Where are you flying in from?” or in real spoken English /wher yuh flyin in from?/  /wher yuh flyin in from?/ The officer is asking for the airport you departed from, Paris, for example. And that’s your response: “From Paris.” You don’t need to make a complete sentence. It’s totally ok.

If you had several flights, you can explain your itinerary “We went from Lyon to Paris, and then Paris to New York.” “We went from Lyon to Paris, and then Paris to New York.”

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF YOUR VISIT?

In real spoken English: /Whus duh purpose ov yur visit?/ /Whus duh purpose ov yur visit?/ Why are you visiting the USA? If it’s just for vacation, you can say “Tourism.” “Tourism.” If it’s business, it’s good to give some details. For example “For business. I’m attending a conference in Manhattan.”

WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO BE STAYING?

In real spoken English : /wher yuh gonna be stayin whaïyuhr here?/ /wher yuh gonna be stayin whaïyuhr here?/ They want information about your accommodation, the name of your hotel, or if you’re staying with friends or family. You can answer: “At the Crown Plaza Times Square hotel”, or “With my family in Pennsylvania” or “With some friends in Atlanta, Georgia.”

If you’re doing a tour and have different hotels, you can say “We’re doing a tour of the American West, so we have different hotels in different cities.” A good idea is to print your hotel confirmation and show it to the officer. That will make things easier!

HOW LONG ARE YOU STAYING IN THE UNITED STATES?

In real spoken English: /how lawn yuh stayih nin thuh yuhnaïtid stayts?/ /how lawn yuh stayih nin thuh yuhnaïtid stayts?/ What’s the duration of your visit? So maybe you’ll say “10 days” or “About 2 weeks” or “For 2 years, but I have a work visa.”

You can also specify the date of your flight home: “We fly back to Madrid on August 14th.” “We fly back to Madrid on August 14th.”

RIGHT HAND, LEFT HAND

After the interrogation, it’s time for the physical test! Or just putting your fingers on a screen so they can take your fingerprints.

You’ll hear “Put the fingers of your right hand on the screen there,” or in real spoken English /puh thuh fingers ov yuhraï tand on thuh screen there/ /puh thuh fingers ov yuhraï tand on thuh screen there/ Key word “right hand” Right hand. (turn around) Right hand. And then left hand. You can remember easily because your left hand makes an L.  L, for left hand. And you’ll put your four fingers.

After that, the officer will ask you to put your thumbs, your right thumb /yuh raï thum/ //yuh raï thum/ and then your left thumb /yuhr lef thum/ /yuhr lef thum/.

NOW I NEED YOU TO LOOK AT THE CAMERA

Smile…or not. It’s time for the officer to take your photo. So you’ll hear /nawah nee djuh tuh look uh thuh camra/ /nawah nee djuh tuh look uh thuh camra/ and you don’t have to say anything, just…look at the camera and don’t smile.

WELCOME THE UNITED STATES!

And once you succeeded, you’ll hear something like “Welcome to the United States. Enjoy your stay!” Welcome to the United States. Enjoy your stay!” You can just respond “Thanks” or “Thank you.” And then run to catch your connecting flight, after spending an hour waiting in line at customs.

Now what about you? Have you ever gone through customs in the United States? What questions did they ask you? Share your experience in the comments, and help others prepare their next trip!

And be sure to go to the site Lost In The USA to get the audio, and a phrase list to help you prepare.

Thanks for watching, I’m Christina and I hope you have a good trip! See you next week!

P.S. Send me a postcard when you get to the USA! Have fun!


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