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Are immigration /customs rules and attitude damaging U.S. tourist industry?


Apr 29th, 2004, 07:38 AM
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Are immigration /customs rules and attitude damaging U.S. tourist industry?

In the press recently there has been some talk about the new rules affecting tourists coming to America.
I read that U.K. nationals are required to have a Biometric passport which can be scanned by U.S. immigration. As far as I know U.K. government does not issue this type of passport yet!
I read of other nationals having problems with rude and unhelpful customs/immigration officials. I realise security needs to strict but if we are downright rude and unhelpful how long before visitors decide it?s not worth the hassle and there is plenty of other countries to visit and spend their cash?
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Apr 29th, 2004, 08:01 AM
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Although there's never an excuse for "rude and unhelpful," I think the U.S. has had to re-think the process of visitors coming in and out of this country, and has to do what makes us safer, whatever the effect on tourism. (Of course, there's always the sad fact that a terrorist can probably easily get in and out of this country through Canada or Mexico...) In an open and free society, this is one thorny issue........ I don't presume to have the answers! (But customs/immigration is like every other line of work....... you will always have the "rude and unhelpful" among them! I'm sure you had them before 9/11, too!)
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Apr 29th, 2004, 08:44 AM
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In the UK at a convention earlier this month, I heard many UK and European folks with increasing concerns about US travel. But they didn't mention "ride" as one of the problems.

This was a national convention where I was one of a handful of Americans, so these comments were amongst themselves, not directed at me.

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Apr 29th, 2004, 08:51 AM
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As an American, I resent the way some of the border and customs folks have treated me as a returning citizen.
If Europeans got worse treatment, I can see why they would be up in arms.

Contrast entry into Canada with entry to the US, even at the same highway crossing. The Canadians, polite and professional; the US surly and even antagonistic.

Example: I drive up, hand the guardian at the gate my passport. He looks at it, and then gives me a hard time of it with questions like "What is your name?"
Brilliant! That will really pickout a terrorist.
A passport is sufficient proof of citizenship and there should be no more discussion. But often there is.
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Apr 29th, 2004, 09:30 AM
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I have to disagree with the last comment. I think the questions, are, at least in part, to make sure that you 'sound' like an American. If you have the name John Smith and can't speak English, that would certainly raise a red flag.

I know when leaving Cuba they made darn good and sure that I could speak English.

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Apr 29th, 2004, 11:13 AM
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I don't normally post on this forum as I live in the UK and use the Europe forum where I am able to give help and advice to people visiting my country.

I happened on this post while searching for information for our trip to Florida later this year (one of several since 1988).

Since 9/11, there has been a definite hardening of attitude by immigration personnel towards visitors to the US.

I have a biometric passport, but have been warned that I still face a 6-hour check-in as the US authorities now insist on full details of your destination address in the US being forwarded prior to arrival. With around 450 passengers per aircraft and say, 30 seconds extra per passenger to get the required information, it's easy to see how delays will multiply.

On arrival, we face being photographed and finger-printed with possibly another 6-hour wait to get through immigration control. We do begin to ask ourselves, is it worth the hassle?

Come on America, we are your best buddies in Iraq - just give us a break before we decide to go elsewhere.
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Apr 29th, 2004, 12:24 PM
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Except for my trip to Hawaii I have always found U.S. customs officials rude and unhelpful. Hawaii was the exception. The customs agent there was friendly, polite and very helpful. He did ask questions but in a friendly way and then even provided advice. For example: He asked us which islands besides Oahu we were going to. When we said B.I. and Kauii, he gave us volcano watching and ocean swimming safety advice. I am sure HE also got a lot of information just by chatting pleasantly with us.
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Apr 29th, 2004, 01:03 PM
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On a related note, there was a thread earlier containing frustrations from Canadian and UK citizens that it is absolutely impossible for them to tour white house - not a deal breaker of course but another straw on the camels back. I (naively) thought they were trusted friends and allies.
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Apr 29th, 2004, 01:23 PM
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I don't think we can forget that the terrorists and terrorism suspects were travelling on European and Canadian passports. The shoe bomber was coming from the UK. So there is reason to be suspicious of everyone.

The irony, of course, is that I have been questioned and searched twice while going into Canada, so it is a two-way street.
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Apr 29th, 2004, 01:27 PM
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They are not helping IMO. When we(US citizens) returned from London in Feb, we came through Miami immigration. The INS guy looked us up and down for about 30 seconds, it was very unnerving. He mentioned that I cut my hair, and my husband got new glasses. was that necessary? I think we need to do a lttile rethinking on our immigrations reception of foreigners and US citizens. And I also believe all of our "coaltion of the willing" allies' citzens, should be given the "fast track" into this country.
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Apr 30th, 2004, 12:22 AM
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Since 09/11 we've been 17 times in US for leisure or medical congress.
Even being one of this "damned" frenchy, we've not found some difference
in attitude at police/custom...
There are some nice people who are polite,efficient and understanding that you can have a jet lag and being tired and you have some "rude" guys
who are sufficient and like their "dominant" position about the "poor" turist which arrives, sometimes with his family and tired, tired...
And it is the same returning in France, arriving in Paris.
Only differences are the control of luggage, at the airport entry or at the gate and in a random manner entering the aircraft and I've never to complain
with a strong attitude for this security.Perhaps because we adopt ourselves a "cool" attitude towards this verification which seems to me
And as we say in france : if you have nothing wrong, why being negative in a control ??
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Apr 30th, 2004, 07:34 AM
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Bardo, Americans are no longer permitted to tour the Houses of Parliament during session. Guess they are getting even

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Apr 30th, 2004, 07:44 AM
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As to the original question, I would say that of course new rules, etc. are hurting US tourism, but that alone isn't the quesiton - it is one of balance and common sense. The biggest blow to US tourism would be if, god forbid, there is another attack.

As an American going into and out of other countries and back to the US (including since 9/11 a trip to Australia and to the Carribean from which I returned the day the Iraq war started) as well as numerous trips within the US, I can say that my first concern was always whether I felt like the officers were doing a good job, and second was whether they were nice (and I'm pretty "liberal" for what that is worth). That said, whatever is done should make sense (unlike those two stupid questions they used to ask, i.e. Did you pack your luggage? No, God did, I'm just his servant.) and should be done in a quick and respectful manner.
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Apr 30th, 2004, 09:06 AM
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Are immigration/customs rules and attitude damaging U.S. tourist industry? Short answer is yes. But a couple of observations.

The rules may be new but the attitude isn't. I've been traveling for 4 decades and would have to say that US INS and Customs have always been, with a some anecdotal exceptions, crusty and officious. I was always startled when their counterparts in Canada or UK or anywhere else were cordial while performing their jobs.

On the other hand, there are many areas of the world where the need to be serious and efficient and NOT necessarily PR reps for the country meant that the same type of officers were downright scary -- I'm thinking of former Soviet bloc areas, former Yugoslavia, and Athens in periods of mid-East tension, highjackings, and so on and so on.

Second, people who were scared off by the image of US cities as crime-ridden lawless areas are even more intimidated by seeing us as a nationwide terrorist target.

Third, some people have told me they choose not to visit on political/moral grounds. I heard the same thing in the 60s regarding our image as a racist nation and on the issue of Viet-Nam.

So there are lots of reasons why people won't come or why they SAY they won't come -- even before they get to customs.

BUT: the sad condition of the dollar right now makes the US a huge bargain. So, short of another 9/11, I wouldn't expect tourism to be exactly drying up anytime soon.
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Apr 30th, 2004, 10:09 AM
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JeanH, what exactly should an American citizen sound like?
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Apr 30th, 2004, 10:48 AM
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To those who think handing a passport to immigration should be enough: since 80,000 blank passports have been stolen in recent years, how would your proposal catch a terrorist using same?

To those who dislike dumb questions: al-queda doesn't require a Mensa membership to be a terrorist. Besides, all American tourists aren't as smart as you--could immigration perhaps have learned that simpler questions are more efficient than brain twisters?

I, for one, would be all in favor of a total biometric ID card so at least the immigration people would know I was the same guy as the documentation said I was.
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May 2nd, 2004, 01:03 PM
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Whatdayanow an article on this has appeared in the Sunday Times.To read it go to www.sunday-times.co.uk/travel

Let me know what you think!
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May 2nd, 2004, 01:16 PM
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Seahatch, I can't access it without subscribing to the Times, apparently! Is that the case???? Would really like to read that. Would you consider e-mailing a copy to me if I give you an address? Thanks!
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May 4th, 2004, 04:20 AM
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I have read similar articles in UK press. Brits are rethinking their travel plans to the U.S. A shame. Leaving the whole political brouhaha out of the issue, it's a shame for travel-related businesses.
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May 4th, 2004, 08:30 AM
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Seahatch, thanks a bunch. You know, you cannot get "The Times" on line, free, as you can the NYTimes, etc., at least so far as I can see. You could, at one time, and I enjoyed it.

This article is very interesting........ thank you for posting. The world is so "on edge" since 9/11. Things will never be the same again, and this whole airport scenario is not unexpected, I think. You have too many people stressed, overworked, worried, exasperated......... But everybody sure needs to work on it!
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