So guess what? Today Zoey’s Social Security Card came in the mail. So that means we did our paperwork right coming into the country! A big relief over here…
A friend of mine who is expecting her travel call to Korea any day now sent me a couple of questions last night about the airport and it got me and Eric talking about everything that happened that we were very confused and not prepared for. So this is for all you soon to be traveling mommas…I hope this helps you guys out!
Now I am not saying this is 100% how it has to be every time but it is what happened with us and a couple of other moms I have talked with too.
Leaving the Airport in Korea to Come Back to the US:
When you are going through customs they will ask for your passports. Give them all 3 passports. They will take you out of line and walk you to the office. Do not be alarmed or have a near panic attack like I almost did. They will tell all 3 of you to sit on a bench outside this door and take all of your passports in the office. DO NOT GIVE THEM THE SEALED PACKET YOU RECEIVE ON GOTCHA DAY…ONLY THE PASSPORTS.
Not sure what they do in the room but they will take a little piece of paper off the passport. I am assuming they called SWS to confirm that we could take Zoey but not really sure. But it freaked us out waiting on this bench outside the office while the officers who could not speak english had our passports in the room. It took a good 15-20 minutes so don’t start worrying. After we got back I heard from other adoptive parents that this happened to them too so I am guessing it is standard procedure but I was not prepared for this at all!
Bonus Tip: Every airport terminal has a super cool kids play room. Zoey did ok playing in it. She was still really shy and freaked out when this kid went down the slide but other than that she loved playing in the cool ball pit. So don’t be afraid to get to the airport early. You will have fun things to do with the kids.
Once in the US:
You have to go through immigration twice. We did not know the process but after asking several employees here is the process we were told to do.
Do the US Citizen Immigration line first for you and your husband.
All three of you need to go up to the counter at the same time. Not one by one like Eric and I typically do when traveling before. They will ask for your three passports. Give them your two and show them child’s visa. DO NOT LET THIS GUY OPEN THE PACKET! But they did ask us if we had the “required paperwork” we showed it to him but did not hand it to him since we were too afraid he would break the special seal that could not be opened.
At that point they will walk you to the non US Citizen immigration “special” line. So you don’t have to wait in line twice plus it is not where the typical non US citizens go since you have to see a person with a special stamp.
THIS PERSON WILL OPEN THE PACKET. It will take a good bit for them to do whatever they have to do. Before I handed him the packed we told him we were adopting and made sure he was the guy we needed to see and clarified there was no misunderstanding before he opened the packet. (Can you tell we were paranoid about this?)
They keep the big packet and you take the stamped child’s visa. I was very nervous about leaving the packet because it didn’t feel right to me and emailed our social worker once we get back but it was correct. We got her social security card in the mail today so all was ok!
Ok our connection was pretty tight seeing all that had to be done. We had a 2.5 hour layover in Detroit and that seemed VERY rushed so if you can get longer I would suggest it. We did not have time for food, changing clothes, etc that we had planned on doing during the layover.
Since we were rushing our “special line guy” told Eric did not have to be there at the counter during this time so he told him to go ahead and get the cart and all of our luggage for the customs.
Unless this is your final destination you will re-check your luggage once you get to the US it not because you are changing flights but because you have to go through customs and you must walk your bags through customs. I am sure wherever you are checking in they will have it down to a T like they did with us in Detroit.
We just had to get our bags in the baggage claim in the customs area and take them with us to immigration (I would suggest getting a cart since you will have a baby to take care of. Eric took care of all the bags on the cart and I tended to Zoey during the process). But immigration was only a couple of feet from the customs baggage claim.
Then once through the other side of custom and immigration there will be a man there to scan and take your bags back. They don’t change luggage tickets or anything…it was a VERY smooth process.
We got flagged to be checked for agriculture. Don’t ask me why but we did. So be prepared for all your luggage to be checked. But you can take a bottle already made through this part. They have to check to make sure it is not a bomb so it will be snatched from the child at some point but you can take it. So I would suggest having one already made at this point just in case your child gets fussy while the bags are all being examined.
They will also have to test any non sealed formula cans for bomb dust but it is ok too. You will not be able to walk through security with the child in the carrier like in Korea but other than that everything is pretty standard. It was just our first time doing security with a child. We had our system down for traveling just us two but that little one and all of her stuff was an adjustment for us.
So that is the only airport surprises I can think of…Just make sure you pack enough diapers! Read this post for our funny story regarding our diaper shortage…
I hope this helps all of you!