Important Tips for Immigration
I have not traveled a lot, but just 7 countries till date covering 99 days of travel outside India (Yes I travel long term). I was never asked for anything at immigration control. No hotel bookings, no cash, no questions ever.
But I have seen a lot of stuff happen at airports and also fellow travelers have narrated their immigration tales. In fact, immigration is my fav discussion topic when I am with travelers. Coz even though you have a visa, immigration control is the point where any goof-up will cost you the entire journey.
Anyone from any country can have a tough time at immigration. I have heard few immigration horror stories from whites from the US, UK, Canada, Europe, and Australia but no deportation. Trust me immigration can give anyone a tough time irrespective of caste, creed, nationality or color.
All the following factors below play an important role in immigration so read carefully.
1. How you appear is the most important. They certainly check. The first impression matters a lot. Dress well, dress appropriately. Don’t look shabby. People dress their best when they go for travel and that is what the immigration officer expects.
2. Don’t act in a manner that will appear suspicious. Don’t wander here and there, talk discreetly to other passengers, do anything that will be termed questionable and arouse suspicions. Basically, mind your own business. Immigration control is not a place to pass time, click pictures, make friends, interact with unknown people as you are under strict observation all the time by camera personnel also. All suspicious passengers are pulled away for detailed questioning.
3. A travel history can either certainly help or can also be a severe hindrance at the same time. A lot of countries (suffering effects of illegal immigration) appreciate having a travel history. Also, it’s beneficial if you have a travel history to the countries termed “right” by the one you are visiting. US/UK etc will be suspicious if you have a travel to Israel, Iran, etc. I hope ur getting my point.
4. Having a multi-country plan helps. It’s helpful if your traveling to multiple countries in a single trip. It shows that you indeed are a traveler.
5. At the immigration counter, I submit all my travel papers in a file to immigration. It includes (details for all countries on that particular trip) all my Flight bookings, all hotel bookings, itinerary, bank statements, all visa print outs, etc. They always return the documents saying all this is not needed. The point is, be upfront. Share all “relevant” info before it is asked. It builds their confidence in you.
6. The Pre-arrival visa is always the best type of visa. It gives a higher chance of making it through immigration. Be ready for additional questioning for “Visa on Arrival”. But there is no problem if you have all the required information.
7. Don’t mess with their laws. If they say you need 10,000 Baht in hand to enter the country, don’t try to act smart in front of them. They will outsmart you and simply refuse u entry. Remember, it’s their country. You are a traveler and only have limited rights. You can argue endlessly with this point and many people in this group will tell you they got immigration with no cash or card in hand. You can believe them if u want to. Common sense says, follow the laws of the country.
8. Deportation almost never happens when ur with family and children. It only happens with solo travelers or a small grp of travelers because they raise suspicions. So if ur with family and children, it’s a very rare scenario. And if ur a solo traveler, be extra bit cautions on all the things mentioned in this post.
9. Corruption is surely a real thing. You have to be able to “read the immigration officer’s intent” correctly. Some harass only because they want money. But this sort of thing has been reported only in South-East Asia or poorer nations like Cambodia and Laos.
10. MOST IMPORTANT POINT: If in trouble, please please please ensure that you give the same answers when questioned. A common form of interrogation is asking the same thing in different words/ manners/ sentences. If your answers come out different, you are definitely in trouble. For someone who is honest, answers will always be the same no matter how you are questioned. Respect the officer and ensure you know your rights in that country, but be very polite.
But deportation is extremely rare and almost unheard of. So there’s always more to the story than what appears. Read such “stories” with a pinch of salt and common sense.
Let me recount an incident. My male-white-friend who is US citizen and world traveler recently narrated an incident where he was questioned at UK airport for 12 whole hours. Shocking? read on. All this because he had stayed in Israel for a few weeks. It seems that he has dual citizenship of the US (green card) and Israel. He has traveled to the UK before and never was there any such issue in the past. Only now. And the officers did not give him any hint of what exactly was wrong in his case. Just kept him locked up in a room. He was neither given water or food. Made him wait for 3 whole hours before he was allowed to go to the loo while he was pacing the room in agony. They questioned and questioned. Multiple people questioning, asking the same questions, but in a different manner. Finally, he was allowed to go and they didn’t even tell him what the issue was. So moral of the story is it can happen to practically anyone.
I hope My advice helps avoid trouble for all travelers. Cheers and Happy travels.