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Q: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: canbeonlyone-ga
List Price: $35.00
Posted: 12 Oct 2004 11:38 PDT
Expires: 11 Nov 2004 10:38 PST
Question ID: 413777
Hi all,

My mother-in-law will be flying to the US from Russia pretty soon. 
This is a little problamatic since she speaks no English and no one
will be traveling with her.  She is flying Czech Airline from Moscow
to Prague and then from Prague to Newark.  At Newark she will take
Continental to Houston (IAH) where we are.

We are worried that she will have a difficult time at Newark getting
through customs, rechecking her baggage onto Continental, finding the
gate and ultimately making her next plane (Though she has a 4 hour
lay-over at Newark).  We are also somewhat concerned about her arrival
in Houston as security prevents us from meeting her at the gate.

We have called Czech airlines and asked if they have a service where
we could pay extra and they would walk her through customs and to her
next gate.  They told us they do not have a service of this type.  Our
only other thought is to give her some flash cards with Russian and
English sentences on it (Please point me to my gate, I am declaring
nothing, etc).  We know that there is a wheel chair service available
but my mother-in-law does not want to do this.

So the mission (should you choose to accept it) is to provide me a
list of steps I can execute to insure she gets through Newark and all
the way to Houston.  You don't have to worry about the Prague
connection, as Russian is commonly spoke there.

I would prefer to pay for a service to guide her in but I am open to
most suggestions (including making flash cards).  I am looking for the
method easiest for her and will pay up to $300 to a service provider
that can make that happen.

Also I do not often fly international so please provide a list of
steps "SHE" is going to have to do on her way to Houston (Fill out a
customs form - a URL to one on the net would be nice; pickup baggage
at Newark and take upstairs to the continental gate, etc).  The more
detailed the better.

I know this questions is a bit open-ended.  That's because I don't
know what I don't know and because I don't know what options exist.  I
would think that people have this problem all the time.  I going to
set the price for $35 with a detailed workable plan worth a tip of
$10.  If this turns into a huge amount of work let me know how much
you think it will take and I can up the price a bit; if necessary by
closing this question and reopening another one.

Thank you for your help!

Clarification of Question by canbeonlyone-ga on 12 Oct 2004 13:12 PDT
Wow - I step away for an hour or so, and look what happens :-)

Thanks for the info Pink.  I have read a "LOT" of your answers (and
liked them) hence the reason I put you in the header.  Maybe next

aht - Thanks for all the info.  I can already see the use for some of
that.  Let me wait until tomorrow morning to give Easterangel a fair
shot and then if not, and you still want to jump in, I would
appreciate it.

Thanks again all!

Request for Question Clarification by aht-ga on 12 Oct 2004 23:36 PDT

As easterangel-ga has indicated that this is not an area of expertise,
would you like for me to take this on? If so, here are a few
clarifying questions:

- is it possible for you to identify the specific date of travel,
along with the expected departure time of the Houston flight (I
already have a good idea of what the flight numbers are from the
information you have provided, but would like to confirm the Houston
one without requiring you to post the actual flight numbers in this
searchable public forum)?
- as a large portion of the Newark 'navigation' will occur within the
secured areas where your mother-in-law will have to depend on either
the airline or airport personnel for assistance, is there any way for
you to send her pre-printed 'flash cards' beforehand, perhaps as a
- how independently mobile is your mother-in-law? A portion of the
transfer will require that she take the AirTrain between terminals...
and the AirTrain travels in both directions.
- can your mother-in-law manage her baggage on her own if necessary?
It is necessary for her to clear her baggage through Customs in Newark
on her own, before re-checking them in at the Baggage Interlining
counter outside the Customs Hall; while porters/skycaps should be
available to help inside the secured area, they most likely will not
speak Russian... and will expect to be tipped in US dollars...

Please let me know if you wish for me to proceed,

Google Answers Researcher


Clarification of Question by canbeonlyone-ga on 13 Oct 2004 07:35 PDT
Hi aht!

Regarding my questions, please proceed!  I think you are already doing
a fine job :-)  In regards to the info you need see below!

The Houston flight (back to Newark) occurs on December 20, and leaves
at 9:15 AM.  I have been a little tight on exact details because of
the public nature of this forum; however I will provide more
information if you think it is useful.  Specifically you may need to
know the departure date from Moscow.  If so let me know.

We plan to fed-ex a package to mom in the next few days.  We could
easily ship flashcards as well.  We can also do a fax if applicable.

Mom is very mobile so that will not be a limitation.  

She is capable of carrying her luggage.  My only concern is that she
may not know what to do with the luggage during the bagage transfer or
where to go with the luggage when first entering the US. If baggage is
a significant challenge then we could ask her to just bring a large
carry-on and we will pick up what she needs when she arrives.  This is
not my first choice but it is an option.

One other comment.  I was under the initial understanding from the
travel agent that the Czech flight ended in the same hub as the
Continental flight to Houston.  This now appears to be incorrect.  We
are following up with the agent this morning, but I would appreciate
if you could verify that.  We had tried to keep her from having to get
on a train.

Thanks again.  Let me know if I can provide more info.

Clarification of Question by canbeonlyone-ga on 13 Oct 2004 08:04 PDT
Now looking at it I realize that I may have misunderstood one of your
questions.  Just in case - I THINK the flight to Houston originating
in Newark leaves at 7:45PM (give or take a few minutes). 
Unfortunately I do not have the intinerary with me, but I will double
check this with the travel agency and let you know.

Request for Question Clarification by aht-ga on 13 Oct 2004 08:55 PDT
Hi canbeonlyone-ga:

Thanks for the clarifications! Yes, it was the Newark-to-Houston
flight time that I wanted to confirm; I already expected it to be the
7:45pm flight, based on the arrival time from Prague and the four-hour
lay-over you mentioned originally.

The AirTrain is best thought of as an inter-terminal shuttle; it runs
only within the airport property. The Prague-Newark flight will arrive
in the International Terminal, terminal B, which is where the US
Customs Hall is located. The Continental flight to Houston actually
operates from Terminal C (I mistakenly was thinking Dallas when I said
terminal A in my comment... please forgive me!). Terminals A and C are
the two domestic-flight terminals for Newark. So, she will need to
take the shuttle train between the two terminals (B and C) to get to
the Continental flight.

Can you tell me the travel date of her Moscow-Houston trip? That will
help me narrow down the possibilities for gate variations.


Google Answers Researcher

Clarification of Question by canbeonlyone-ga on 13 Oct 2004 09:52 PDT
The travel date for the Moscow to Houston flight is November 8.  Thanks!
Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
Answered By: aht-ga on 13 Oct 2004 22:59 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Thank you for this interesting project! As a semi-regular business
traveller, I can definitely appreciate your desire to help your
mother-in-law be fully prepared for her journey. I hope that this
Answer helps you with this.

This Answer is structured as follows:

1. Preparations required before your mother-in-law begins her journey
2. Suggestions for materials that you should send to your
mother-in-law before her journey
3. Step-by-step instructions for your mother-in-law to take her
through each portion of the journey

As you indicated that your mother-in-law should be able to make her
way to Prague and onto the Czech Airlines' flight to Newark (airport
code: EWR) without any major problems, I will focus this Answer on the
portion of the journey that starts with the Prague-Newark flight, and
concludes with your meeting her in Houston (airport code: IAH).
Unfortunately, Continental Airlines does not offer a concierge service
to assist with getting your mother-in-law from the arrivals area to
the departure gate at Newark. So, the steps that I have outlined are
designed to allow your mother-in-law to make this transfer on her own.


There are several items that need to be looked after before your
mother-in-law's journey begins:

Travel Documents:

There are several travel documents required, as outlined on the
following US Dept. of State website:

1. Passport - I will presume that your mother-in-law has a valid
Russian passport, valid for the entire period that she will be outside
of Russia, plus an additional six months; if not, she will need to
renew/obtain her passport, or else the trip will be over before it

2. US Visa - citizens of Russia require a visitor's visa in order to
enter the US. In Russia, visas are issued by the US Embassy in Moscow
or one of the Consulates in other cities; since your mother-in-law is
in Moscow anyway, it is best to obtain the visa straight from the

  Visa Application Forms:
                           (DS-156 and DS-157)

  Visa Application Requirements: 
                         - the aforementioned passport
                         - the aforementioned application forms
                         - a 2in x 2in photo
                         - application fee of US$100

  Additional suggestions:
                         - a letter from you inviting your mother-in-law to visit

Other Documents:

On the flight from Prague to EWR, your mother-in-law will receive
several forms to complete. These forms may be only available in
English, depending on what forms are carried by Czech Airlines on that
particular flight. To help your mother-in-law be prepared for this, I
suggest that you provide her with print-outs of the following online
versions, annotated with the proper instructions in Russian:

  Arrival-Departure Record (I-94)
  (note: if this sample link does not work, the link can be located on
the first link page)

  U.S. Customs and Border Protection Declaration Form 6059B

Important Notes:

Please remind your mother-in-law NOT to attempt to bring any banned or
controlled substances into the US with her. This includes fruit,
meats, animals, soil, and just about anything else that can possibly
carry diseases. Oh, and no Cuban cigars of course. If she wants to
bring any sharp objects, it MUST be in her check-in luggage, or it
will be confiscated and disposed of at the airport.

Also, if at all possible, your mother-in-law should take a picture of
each of the suitcases that she will be bringing on this trip, and
should bring copies of these pictures in her purse. This serves two
purposes: if the baggage is lost in transit, a picture is worth
several thousand words when speaking with a baggage agent; secondly,
if she needs help with her baggage in Newark, a picture will make it
much easier to communicate with her helper.

While I'm on the topic of suitcases, given that she will need to take
her baggage through US Customs in Newark on her own, I strongly
recommend that she limit herself to one check-in suitcase, and that
this suitcase have its own wheels. Baggage carts in Newark require
money to be rented, and she only needs to take the suitcase from the
carousel, through Customs, and to the "Connecting Flights" baggage
check-in located immediately outside the Customs area.

Baggage size limits are found here:



Helpful things to send to your mother-in-law as a pre-trip care package include:

- "Flash cards" with necessary Russian/English phrases specific to her
journey (see summary at end of this Answer)
- American coins (for the payphones, just in case)
- American money (for food in EWR, tips if necessary)
- Airport maps for EWR and IAH:
  - EWR:
  - IAH:
- annotated printouts of the Arrival-Departure Record and the
Declaration Form (as noted above)


01) As the Czech Airlines flight from Prague to Newark approaches the
US, the cabin crew will hand out the Arrival-Departure Record and the
Declaration Form to all passengers. Using the annotated print-outs
that you provide her, your mother-in-law should have no problem
filling out the forms.

02) The Czech Airlines flight will land at Newark Liberty Airport
(EWR) at Terminal B. More specifically, international flights use a
series of gates located between the B-2 and B-3 'pylons' of Terminal
B, as described here:

03) Czech Airlines should have a representative at the gate in the
terminal area to direct all deplaning passengers to the International
Arrivals Hall; your mother-in-law should just follow the flow of
passengers and crew as all passengers and crew must go through the
International Arrivals Hall to pass through Immigration and Customs.

04) From the information on the link provided in step 02, you will
note that the Immigration desks are located on the 'upper' level of
the Hall (the same level that the deplaning passengers will enter as
they leave the gate), while the baggage carousels and the US Customs
areas are on the 'lower' level. Again, your mother-in-law should just
follow the general flow of traffic.

05) Upon arriving at the first section, ie. the Immigration counters,
your mother-in-law will need to join the lineup for visitors. As long
as she has her passport and forms ready, the Immigration and/or
airport security staff at the entrance to the Immigration area will be
able to direct her to the appropriate line-up. To be absolutely safe,
please consider providing her with a flash card that asks "Which
lineup for visitors with visas?"

06) When your mother-in-law finally gets to an Immigration officer,
she will need to present all of her forms, her passport (with visa),
and a flash card that says: "Sorry, I can only speak Russian. Is a
Russian translator available?". An airport the size of Newark should
have a Russian translator on duty for Immigration.

07) Please let your mother-in-law know that all visitors to the US
(except those from Canada and a small number of "friendly" nations)
are required to have their digital photo taken at the Immigration
counter. Each counter has a Logitech Quickcam set up for this purpose,
so assure your mother-in-law that this is standard practice.

08) After your mother-in-law has made it through Immigration, she will
need to make her way to the baggage carousel for her flight. Another
flash card will help here: "Where is the baggage carousel for flight
XX####?" (where XX#### is the flight number)

09) Upon retrieving her luggage from the carousel, your mother-in-law
will need to take her luggage, along with the Declaration Form, to the
Customs area where she hopefully will be waved through after handing
over the Form (again, this is assuming that she did not attempt to
bring in any contraband, and did not have anything else to declare).

10) Immediately beyond the Customs area, she will exit into the public
part of the terminal (Welcome to the USA!). Immediately to her left,
she should see some check-in counters for connecting flights. As Czech
Airlines and Continental Airlines are both members of SkyTeam, she
should be able to locate the Continental counter and should be able to
check her bag in there. She will also receive her boarding pass for
the EWR-IAH flight at this time. She will need to present her ticket,
and her passport (for identification). The agent may ask her the
standard luggage questions ("Has anyone unknown to you asked you to
carry an item on this flight?" and "Have any of the items you are
traveling with been out of your immediate control since you packed
them?"), so you might want to include a flash card for that as well.

11) After checking her luggage in at the connecting flights counter
and obtaining her boarding pass, your mother-in-law will need to
locate the AirTrain station to travel to Terminal C (which is where
the Houston flight will depart). The AirTrain station is located on
the concourse level, so another flash card will help here: "Which way
to the AirTrain station?"

12) Upon finding the AirTrain station in Terminal B, your
mother-in-law will need to shuttle in the correct direction to reach
Terminal C. On the page in the above link, you will notice that
Terminal C is represented by a C on a green field in a
triangular-shaped symbol. That's what she'll need to look for. To be
safe, another flash card: "Which train to get to Terminal C?"

13) Terminal C is exactly one station away from Terminal B. The
station in Terminal C is located between pylons C3 and C2; the
Continental gates are in pylon C1, so your mother-in-law will need to
walk to the other end of Terminal C to get to C1.

14) To enter pylon C1, your mother-in-law will need to pass through
security. American airport security requirements may differ from what
she has been exposed to in Russia and/or Europe, so please advise her
that she will need to place any carry-ons on the X-ray machine
conveyor belt, any jacket she may be wearing also needs to go through
the conveyor, and in some cases even shoes will need to go through the
Xray machine. She may also be subject to a metal-detecting wand scan
after passing through the metal detector doorway, before she is
allowed to collect all of her belongings. Any sharp objects detected
during this inspection will be seized and disposed of.

15) After passing through security, she will need to proceed to the
gate indicated on her boarding pass. A sampling of the gates used by
the EWR-IAH flight shows that it does not have a fixed gate (this week
alone it has already used at least C77, C82, C88, and C92). Depending
on when she arrives at her gate, she should have time to find
something to eat from one of the food concessions in the gate area. US
Dollars required here.

16) The cabin crew on board the EWR-IAH flight is almost guaranteed to
not understand Russian, so a few flash cards for this flight segment
are suggested, such as "Water please", stuff like that.

17) Upon arriving in Houston, the aircraft will use a gate in either
the C concourse, or the E concourse. Regardless, the baggage will come
out in the same baggage area (which is where you can meet her). Again,
the best thing for her to do is to follow either a family from the
same flight, or at least another older woman from the same flight, in
order to get to the baggage area without any wrong turns. The IAH
airport map from the link up in the MATERIALS section may help her
here. As a safeguard, another flashcard: "Which way to the baggage
carousel for flight XX####", customized for this flight.

18) If all has gone well, you should be able to help her with her
luggage, and celebrate a successful journey!


"Which lineup for visitors with visas?"
"Sorry, I can only speak Russian. Is a Russian translator available?"
"Where is the baggage carousel for flight XX####?"  (one for each flight)
"Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry an item on this flight?
(YES / NO)"  and "Have any of the items you are traveling with been
out of your immediate control since you packed them? (YES / NO)"
"Which way to the AirTrain station?"
"Which train to get to Terminal C?"
"Water please" and other refreshment related cards


You can get information about Prague-Ruzyne Airport here:

Information about Newark Liberty Airport can be found here:

You can track the progress of the Czech Airlines flight using the
tracking tool here:

You can track the progress of the Continental Airlines flight (add
confirm the arrival gate) here:

If your mother-in-law's bag doesn't make it to Newark:

If your mother-in-law's bag doesn't make it to Houston, best to speak
directly to the Continental baggage office at the airport.

There's a lot of reading here, so please let me know if there is any
part of this Answer that you would like me to clarify. The majority of
this Answer is based on my own experience, and the resources available
through airline and government websites.

I hope that this helps, and that your mother-in-law has an enjoyable trip!


Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by canbeonlyone-ga on 14 Oct 2004 07:00 PDT
Hi aht!

After a quick initial reading your answer looks wonderful.  Please
allow my wife and I to peruse it a bit and sometime this evening I
will rate the answer (We may have some questions).

Thank you again!!

More soon!

Clarification of Answer by aht-ga on 14 Oct 2004 07:07 PDT
Most definitely, please take your time and ask for clarifications
where I have not been clear enough.


Google Answers Researcher
canbeonlyone-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
Excellent - very well thought out and detailed.  Saved me a LOT of
time!  Thanks I REALLY appreciate it!

Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: pinkfreud-ga on 12 Oct 2004 11:42 PDT
This is not the kind of research project that I do best, so I'll pass.
Thank you very much for mentioning me in your title line.
Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: pinkfreud-ga on 12 Oct 2004 11:57 PDT
I did find this on the site of Newark International Airport:

"If you are a first time visitor or don't speak English, our
red-jacketed, multilingual Customer Service Representatives are
available to help with directions and other information to get you
where you are going."
Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: aht-ga on 12 Oct 2004 12:06 PDT

In addition to the info that pinkfreud has already dug up for you, you
may want to take a look at the following form sample on the US Customs
website, so that you can provide your mother-in-law with instructions
on how to fill it out:
Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: aht-ga on 12 Oct 2004 12:14 PDT
sorry, hit the wrong key before finishing my comment!

Additional information, such as immigration department forms for
non-immigrant, non-permanent residents, are also available here:

Assuming that your mother-in-law is travelling on Russian travel
documents, she will need to fill out the I-94 form as well. You can
read about and view this form from the above website:

You can also view a map of Newark Liberty Int'l Airport on their website at:

Czech Airlines arrives at International Hall Terminal B; Continental
Airlines operates from Terminal A. Your mother-in-law will need to
take the airport train between the terminals. That, along with the
baggage situation, will be the most difficult portions of the Newark
experience for her. If easterangel-ga is not able to provide
assistance to you in this area, I would be happy to continue digging
up information; otherwise, I hope that easterangel can take the above
info and incorporate it into the overall plan that you have requested!


Google Answers Researcher
Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: easterangel-ga on 12 Oct 2004 15:55 PDT
Hi canbeonlyone-ga! I don't have much experience with this as well so
I will let other much knowledgeable researchers on this topic to take
on the question.

Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: wifi_jaxwireless_com-ga on 12 Oct 2004 20:09 PDT
Had to throw in the 2 cents .

Mother in law is coming into town and you cannot understand what she
is saying. You will not have to talk to her the entire time that she
is here.

There is a god. Lucky you.

Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: probonopublico-ga on 12 Oct 2004 23:34 PDT
My mother couldn't speak a word of any foreign language but it never
her stopped her trying to make herself understood.

She simply SHOUTED S-L-O-W-L-Y, in English of course.

Be warned!
Subject: Re: Mom-in-law coming to USA but doesn't speak English - Pinkfreud or Easterangel
From: aht-ga on 15 Oct 2004 10:15 PDT

Thank you for the tip! I hope that all goes well with your
mother-in-law's trip. One additional note: on the return trip to
Moscow, Continental *should* be able to check her luggage through all
the way to Moscow, due to the SkyTeam partnership. This is worth
reconfirming directly with Continental as you get closer to the date
of the return trip. That way, your mother-in-law will not need to
handle her luggage at all on the return trip through Newark.


Google Answers Researcher

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