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DMBTraveler Aug 1st, 2012 02:39 PM

Immigrations and Customs Experiences
 
If I were a gambling man, I would bet that there is something common in the DNA of most Immigration and Customs Officials around the world. Entering and exiting most countries, I am often reminded of an old joke and have been tempted many times to use it.

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey, buddy what's up with the long face?”

So far I have been able to restraint myself from becoming like Jason Bourne and others in having my passport stamped “Denied”. Although, I think being “Persona Non Grata” would be cool if just for a day.

My best land /seaport border crossing by far has been in Swaziland followed by Jordan’s, “Welcome To The Kingdom Of Jordan” in Aqdaba.

The best airport experience, Dubai where there were no forms to fill out, the process was efficient and it actually felt like they wanted you to visit their country. Most countries in Europe tend to also fall into this category not necessarily in terms of warmness but efficiency.

The worst land border crossing, almost a tie between Mozambique and The King Hussein Bridge crossing into Israel. The latter almost understandable but what an unfriendly process that I am told can sometimes take up to five hours.

The worst airport experience, Detroit, Michigan where as a US citizen I was pulled aside and interrogated before being allowed back into my own country.

On a recent visit to China I was surprised to find an Immigration Officer grading system right at the counter available for you to give instant critique after you are processed. These should be available everywhere and the results made public. A JD Power rating system for Immigration and Customs Officials.

I know which group would not be anywhere near the top of that rating system except if it's Global Entry Program is included. As member of Global Entry, I am happy to report that now most of my returns to the US are efficient and pleasant experiences. Maybe it is because machines never seem to be unhappy to be at work or have long faces.

DonTopaz Aug 1st, 2012 03:10 PM

Not only is Global Entry a terrific program, but the CBP guy who interviewed me was someone I'd enjoy having a beer with.

My worst border experience was a day trip I took some years ago to Bratislava (then in CSSR) from Vienna -- they were ok about letting me in, but no so much about letting me out.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Aug 1st, 2012 05:59 PM

Interesting topic, DMBTraveler! :)

My favorite border crossing took place years ago. I was flying into Guyana, in northern South America. The immigration official asked me, very brightly, very chipperly, "Are you smuggling any drugs or weapons into Guyana?" I said no. (Is anybody ever going to answer yes to such a question?) He thanked me, stamped my passport, and welcomed me to Guyana. :)

In the U.S., I find the CBP folks (TSA too) to reflect the communities where they live. I think everybody at DFW is very friendly. They do their jobs and are businesslike about it, but it's Texas. Immigration and customs come with a "Hi. How are you?" Maybe a little bit of a drawl too. I don't find that to be the case entering the U.S. at some other airports.

DMBTraveler Aug 1st, 2012 06:21 PM

DonTopaz,

My Gobal Entry interview was a little scary.. They seem to know more places that I had been to than I remembered and they knew the dates.

It is a great program well worth the US$100.

I was in Europe during the Bratisalva days doing the Eurail thing and thought it would have been cool to visit. However, I guess it would not have been to cool if like you they would not want to let me out.

DMBTraveler Aug 1st, 2012 06:30 PM

JeffCR,

Howdy, Partner. Guess I am going to have to fly thru Texas more often. Recently read there is going to be a push to have more international flights at DFW.

Your observation about ICE/TSA personal reflecting the communities they live in may have some truth to it. However, I did not see the ones in Dublin wearing kilts.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Aug 2nd, 2012 06:15 AM

Since I always fly American, my choices for flying back home are DFW or MIA. DFW is much more manageable any day.

MissGreen Aug 2nd, 2012 02:51 PM

On returning to Sydney from I had two tiny things to declare.. a small wooden hippo and a small glass jar of sand with my name spelt out. I went to the red lane for declaring and the customs agent asked what I had. I replied "just this hippo and this" and held them up. I then said "i was too cheap and miserable to buy anything else". He said "well you did return with something else too.. a sense of humour!" This was the first customs agent to make a joke.

A friend whilst at USA Immigration had to repeat the town she was born in..."Wagga Wagga" to a group of agents because they thought it was hysterically funny. A few repeated "Wagga Wagga" then she was on her way. Only friendly Immigration interaction I have heard about!

DMBTraveler Aug 2nd, 2012 03:04 PM

MissGreen,

Cute, funny and exceptional stories ... Nice to have a good laugh when reading a reply.

Not the norm around here. "Wagga, Wagga"

michele_d Aug 2nd, 2012 05:30 PM

During our recent trip we traveled to ten countries. As most of the countries were in the EU no one was stamping my passport and I was a little disappointed.

As we went through immigration into St. Petersburg, Russia, the control officer was very stern faced and unflappable. He even looked a little scarey. As we proceeded towards him I was a little nervous, even though I had no reason to be.

When it was my turn he took my passport and looked up at me and then back at my passport a couple times, very stern faced, before he stamped my passport. I smiled, thanked him and said quietly to my husband, "Yippee, another stamp in my passport", to which he grinned broadly, almost chuckling. Welcome to Russia!

ELiz_Travels Aug 3rd, 2012 05:09 AM

The most surprising question I was ever asked was on a small rural crossing between Canada and the US. After the standard questions about reason for our visit, duration of trip and citizenship, the only other question we were asked : Do you have any green apples? Perhaps the custom officer was hungry.

ELiz_Travels Aug 3rd, 2012 05:22 AM

I've always found Australian customs officers a relaxed and friendly lot. But that doesn't mean they are not vigilant. They use sniffer dogs and you will be pulled aside for anything questionable, even on domestic flights, as there are state-to-state restrictions. I have seen bananas confiscated on a flight from Sydney to Perth, for example. When arriving from overseas we are careful to declare anything we feel might be suspect, even snacks were were given on the plane. An officer will ask a question or two, perhaps want to see your items, and then quickly send you on your way, perhaps with a "g'day mate".

DMBTraveler Aug 3rd, 2012 06:03 AM

Michele-d,

Sounds like a nice trip. What ten countries?

Glad you got another stamp in your passport and hopefully it is one with extra pages.

DMBTraveler Aug 3rd, 2012 06:12 AM

ElizTravel,

Although the "Green Apple" question seemed out of place it is not. What would have been even more odd if he had asked if you had any "Green Eggs And Ham" :)

Thanks for heads up on inter Australia travel and fruit inspections. I would not want to keep a banana and slip up on that one :)

michele_d Aug 3rd, 2012 07:21 AM

DMBTraveler,
This trip we started in Italy, Switzerland and Austria for the first two weeks. Then our kids returned home and for the next month we visited the Czech Republic, Russia and Estonia. Next we visited Scandinavia hitting Finland, Sweden, Norway and then finally Denmark.

It was a faster paced trip than our last one, 6 countries in 3 months, but still a blast. Lots of good memories. We probably will not return to Scandinavia, even though we loved it, as it is so expensive. Already planning our next trip, mostly countryside and small towns as we know now that is what we prefer.

txgirlinbda Aug 3rd, 2012 09:44 AM

A few friends and I drove from Italy to Slovenia for a day trip. My friend Matt (the driver) was able to convey to the border guard how disappointed I was to not get a stamp in my passport. I leaned over the back seat and gave him my biggest smile, and he finally shook his head, stamped my passport and muttered 'tourist'.

About 15 hours later, on our way back, I was asleep in the backseat when we hit the border again. Matt was trying frantically to wake me so I could dig my passport out for the guard, when the guard looked in the backseat and said, "Is OK, that is Michelle, no?"

I never did have to show my passport.

DMBTraveler Aug 3rd, 2012 12:35 PM

Michele-d,

Have heard that about Scandinavia. I would how it compares expense wise to Japan.

Been to Denmark and would like to get to Norway/Finland for "The Northern Light Show". Guess I better start saving my pennies.

DMBTraveler Aug 3rd, 2012 12:38 PM

txgirlinbda,

Glad to read another fun Immigration/Customs story. I may have to rethink my theory about a common link in their DNA.

txgirlinbda Aug 3rd, 2012 01:02 PM

We couldn't figre out if it was the same guy on one really long shift, or if the story of the crazy tourist had made the rounds...

ELiz_travels story about the green apples reminded me about the time my mom came back across the Canadian border on her way home from a wedding.

Border guard - "What was the purpose of your trip to Canada?"
Mom - "We went to a wedding."
Border guard - "Do you have anything to declare?"
Mom - "It was a wonderful wedding!!"

And that's how to ensure you get your car searched at the Canadian border!!

DMBTraveler Aug 3rd, 2012 05:29 PM

txgrlinbda,

Love your mom's sense of humor. Do you think she could spread some of it here?

joto Aug 3rd, 2012 06:09 PM

Coming back into Portsmouth on a ferry from France, we were waiting in line in the car to go through the customs shed. Already in there was a VW van with everything taken out of it, I mean everything, seats as well. Luckily our inspection went well, even though we were carrying a few more bottles of wine than were really allowed.

When we lived in MA, coming back from the UK into Logan was always a horrible experience. Only ever got one semi nice immigration person. All the rest treated us as if we had no business being in the USA, even though we had the correct visa's, then green cards, and now passports, all legally obtained. It might have helped if we had been Irish, rather than UK born. LOL. We have had no problems at DIA. We have never had an unpleasant immigration officer. They ranged from straightforward and to the point to friendly and welcoming.


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