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Six Travel Tips for International Arrivals at SEA 

November 20, 2023

By the SEA Customer Care Team 

Whether you’re planning your dream vacation or getting ready for an upcoming trip, here is everything you need to know about arriving and connecting from outside the United States into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). Whether you’re a first time international traveler or a seasoned globetrotter, these tips will make your trip better! 

Tip 1: Book with the same airline or partner airlines 

Traveling on the same airline or partner airlines will typically ensure that you will have enough time for your arrival or connection at SEA. If possible, book directly with an airline provider instead of a third-party site. This will give you more control over your reservations and bookings with the airline and better support online or at the airport. Always connect with your airline for more information on your flight including accessibility, ticketing, or luggage services. 


Tip 2: Build in plenty of time in advance!

If you’re connecting from an international destination, the SEA team recommends having at least three hours between your international arrival and your next scheduled departure time. This will give you enough time to accommodate short flight delays, claim your luggage, go through passport control, recheck your luggage, and go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening. All travelers connecting to another flight must go through TSA Screening before their next flight. 


Tip 3: Understand the entry process

 Whether you’re arriving home to Seattle or connecting to another state or country, all travelers coming into the International Arrivals Facility (IAF) are required to go through U.S. Customs and Passport control (CBP) at their first entry into the United States. 


Tip 4: Pick up your bags first

The first thing you do when arriving is pick up your checked bags. And if you are continuing your trip, recheck them to your final destination. The IAF is a Bags First facility. If you claim a checked bag, you’ll also have to recheck your bag with your airline. If you’re not flying with Alaska Airlines or Delta Air Lines or one of their partners, you may have to exit to the area before security, then go to the ticketing level and recheck your luggage with your next airline. As you can imagine this takes extra time, so you’ll be happy you planned ahead to build in that extra time! Free luggage carts are available to help you move your bags to the next step. 


Tip 5: Utilize Expedited Traveler Programs

There are a variety of options to get through Passport Control efficiently! Green card holders, U.S., and Canadian Citizens can use the free Mobile Passport Control app! Dedicated queues for other international trusted traveler programs like NEXUS, SENTRI, and Global Entry are also available.

When you come back to SEA Airport to fly home, skip the security line with timed entry through SEA Spot Saver!


Tip 6: Make sure you have all your travel documents

If you are not a citizen or permanent resident, you will need a visa. According to the U.S. Department of State, a visa is required even when transiting through to another country. For all travelers, please make sure your passport or permanent resident card is up to date. If your passport is expiring within the next year, you may be denied boarding! Make sure it’s renewed and ready well in advance before your trip. 

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