International News

Customs Wait Times at Miami International Airport Are Notoriously Bad

Miami International ranks among the worst customs wait times in the country.
Miami International ranks among the worst customs wait times in the country. Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius / Flickr
click to enlarge Miami International ranks among the worst customs wait times in the country. - PHOTO BY JIMMY BAIKOVICIUS / FLICKR
Miami International ranks among the worst customs wait times in the country.
If misery loves company, tourists newly arrived in Miami can rest easy knowing that going through customs here basically sucks for everyone. It's so bad, in fact, that Miami International Airport (MIA) ranks among the worst customs wait times in the nation when it comes to processing international travelers.

That's according to a new analysis of federal data by the Dubai-based property search website Bayut, which crunched the numbers on wait times for the nearly 80 million foreigners who flew to the United States in 2018. The report has good and bad news for Florida airports, but mostly bad. Orlando's two main airports — Orlando International and Orlando Sanford International — ranked worst and second-worst in the nation when it came to average customs wait times, with more than 25-minute waits at each airport. Miami International came in at 11th, with an average wait time of almost 17 minutes. Palm Beach International, on the other hand, had the nation's shortest average wait time last year — just 4.7 minutes.
So what's behind the mini-eternities endured by the jetlagged masses visiting the Magic City? The short answer is volume. Miami International had more than 10.5 million international passengers in 2018, compared to just 53,000 in Palm Beach.

Only two airports — JFK in New York and Los Angeles International — had more international traffic than MIA last year. JFK's wait time was two minutes longer than that of Miami International, while LAX's was about the same as Miami's. The Tampa and Orlando Sanford airports were especially bad when considering the relatively low number of international visitors they received.

Still, traffic isn't everything. O'Hare International in Chicago, for example, handled about 485 incoming passengers every 15 minutes. Miami processed only 350 in the same amount of time.

Although it might seem like there's never a good time to wait in line at MIA, the report's authors found that arriving late will likely make the entry process breezier: Landing in Miami between 10 and 11 p.m. saves almost ten minutes of waiting compared to arriving around noon. As for the least busy holidays for international travelers to visit the States, Thanksgiving and New Year's are your best bet, according to the report.
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Manuel Madrid is a former staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C.