I flew into LAX on a direct flight from Melbourne, Australia. 15hours on the plane was super uncomfortable and I barely got a blink of sleep, excitement perhaps?! As we started our descent into LA I was soooo excited 1). to finally be in the US and 2). I could see the Hollywood sign from the window. The fact that it was summer helped too!
Seated at the very back of the plane (which was huge) the wait to exit took forever. Finally, following the crowd I made my way to the immigration line. Before this, being greeted with a sign 'Welcome to the United States'.
I am called to the immigration desk. The officer was very serious and stern looking, certainly not helping with my nerves. He asked for my passport, looked over my details and began to ask general questions about the nature of my trip. He took digital fingerprints, a photograph and my Immigration package sent from the US consulate in Sydney, the same one that read 'DO NOT OPEN'. He stared at me blankly as if to say what is this and what do you want me to do with it. I explained and he looked at me, semi-smirk and said 'lucky'. He didn't require my x-ray. I also handed him the incoming passenger card given by the airline, he stamped it and handed it back. Then he asked where I was planning to stay and why it was a hotel address, how long my trip was (although semi irrelevant), which states I was going to and what my future plans were. My heart was racing, he was so intimidating, I was excited and nervous at the same time.
After this, the officer directed me to walk along the path of immigration booths to the end, I had no idea where I was going and continued walking until I reached a tiny sign that read "New Immigrants and Asylees'. I approached the officer at the counter and asked if I was in the right place. Thankfully I was. I was the only person there.
I handed my documents and passport to the officer. I was told to leave my carry on luggage and follow the officer to a desk where I was fingerprinted with ink and required to sign two forms. I sat in the waiting area while my documents were processed. About 5 minutes later I was called to the desk and handed my passport. The officer explained the stamp above my visa indicated that my visa would serve as a temporary green card until the physical one is received in the mail.
A big sigh of relief and I walked down the escalator, the final step of the longest process ever was complete and I was in LA. I walked over to collect my luggage and again followed the masses to customs. The officer there made a joke about me having scorpions in my luggage (no clue what that was about) and collected my declaration.
And that was it, a rather unspectacular welcome to the US of A.