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Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:34 pm UTC
by MoonBuggy
This probably comes from reading far to many airport horror stories on Slashdot and the like, but I feel the need to ask nonetheless - I'm probably going to be flying into the states in May and my (British) passport has a lot of reasonably unusual stamps/visas in it (Iran, Pakistan, China, as well as quite a few more 'normal' ones). Is anyone going to notice? Will they care? Am I just being a paranoid fool?

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:48 pm UTC
by ziptnf
If there's nothing illegal that you're doing, carrying, or planning on doing, then you should be fine.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:49 pm UTC
by MFHodge
I wouldn't be surprised if you got a bit of extra scrutiny. Plan for a little extra time in security, just to be safe.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:55 pm UTC
by EdgarJPublius
There's no formal or wrtten rule regarding people with 'interesting stamps' but there are certainly homelanders that work out of their own rule book (but that's been true since before there was ever such a thing as homeland security).

At worst you might get screened (but again, that could happen anyway, since there's supposedly a random-screening, but my Mom also gets screened all the time since I swear all of her clothes set off the metal detectors) which is unpleasant and annoying, but relatively quick and not dangerous, just follow the screeners instructions reasonably and it will be over quickly.

just acquaint yourself with the rules make sure you have plenty of time in-case you do get screened, and be able to explain your stamps.

If you're really worried, I think you should be able to get blank passport pages at your embassy/wherever you get passports that can be used to cover up or replace pages with 'interesting stamps'

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:06 pm UTC
by segmentation fault
hope you like cavity searches.


lol jk. maybe.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:38 pm UTC
by lowbart
ziptnf wrote:If there's nothing illegal that you're doing, carrying, or planning on doing, then you should be fine.


Add "there's no law or regulation that you've ever sort of violated in any way while in the USA" such as overstaying a visa twenty years ago, and you should be fine.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:52 pm UTC
by Matheson
MoonBuggy wrote:This probably comes from reading far to many airport horror stories on Slashdot and the like, but I feel the need to ask nonetheless - I'm probably going to be flying into the states in May and my (British) passport has a lot of reasonably unusual stamps/visas in it (Iran, Pakistan, China, as well as quite a few more 'normal' ones). Is anyone going to notice? Will they care? Am I just being a paranoid fool?


I doubt it'll be a problem. They only give a cursory examination of your Passport anyway and if you have that many stamps I wouldn't have thought they'd pick up on the more exotic ones. They give you a brief oral questioning at the beginning but that's just pretty straightforward stuff like where you are going, who you are staying with and so forth. Admittedly, the TSA people don't seem terribly well trained or cooperative but if you make their life easy they'll leave you alone.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:56 pm UTC
by Girlâ„¢
Knee-jerk reaction: You've been to Iran and Pakistan? Unless you're very white, contact a lawyer, preferably one at your destination, and keep his number close at hand. Yeah, I'm paranoid. Homeland Security scares the piss out of me, and I'm a gorram citizen.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:00 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
Hey, you have nothing to fear from Homeland Security, especially if you have nothing to hide, citizen.

Just remember : All Suspects are Guilty. Otherwise, they wouldn't be Suspect, now would they?

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:39 pm UTC
by MoonBuggy
If the majority of you are right about the extra screening that's no problem, I've had it happen to me a few times in other countries without incident - although another (perhaps naive?) question that springs to mind is what happens if they delay me to the point that I miss my flight home?

Girlâ„¢: How seriously did you mean that - as it happens I am very conclusively white, and I could theoretically get a new passport if it'd really be worthwhile, but it's fairly expensive and a rather large hassle.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:56 pm UTC
by lowbart
The last time I went through Customs (last year), the guy barely even looked at my passport enough to verify the picture (and I had long hair in the picture and short hair in real life). But I was a citizen returning after a week away, and I was with a school group.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:59 pm UTC
by ++$_
Just take the same precautions you would take when visiting a country that regularly detains suspects without trial for long periods. (For example, Pakistan, or Iran, maybe?) That is, make sure your friends know your schedule, and make sure you have the phone number of a lawyer handy (probably memorized).

Erasing your passport history might cause red flags to go up. It's better to just leave the stamps there, I would say.

It's much more likely to be detained without trial in Pakistan (for example) than in the US, but it pays to take some basic steps (like the above) to give yourself an out if something goes wrong.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:07 pm UTC
by EdgarJPublius
In my considerable experience (being a rather frequent international flyer) Homeland Security isn't all that bad, I mean, I'd like to get all worked up about all the annoyances and inconveniences caused at airport security, but it's never really affected me, sure you get screened every once in a while, but don't do anything stupid, and follow the rules and it won't be bad, not even the worst homelanders want to make it any worse or unpleasant than they have to, by now most (if not all) of the bad eggs have been weeded out (just remember, the homelander behind every horror story you've read on slashdot was fired for that, or a similar incident)


If you show up on time for your flight (usually an hour or two early is the recommended time) and still get delayed to the point of missing your flight, then it's probably lawyer time since you've been detained, the screening process won't take more than five or ten minutes unless you give the wrong answers.

'erasing your passport history' (whatever that means) isn't going to raise any red flags, the homelander has no way of knowing whether you've ever traveled internationally before.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:27 pm UTC
by lesliesage
puzzle

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:33 pm UTC
by Belial
You're dealing with a country that likes to abscond with people for no proven reason to foreign jails and hold them without evidence or cause for years.

Definitely make sure someone knows your schedule. Disappearing forever would suck, however remote the chance is.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:36 pm UTC
by Matheson
lesliesage wrote:They might very well ask you questions when you get there, but they do that to like, 10% of travelers or something. I'm a US citizen and was in Australia for 6 months, then I went around southeaset Asia and Europe before coming home, and they talked to me for 45 min about where I went and how I paid for it and why I had so few belongings with me for that many months. They're just kind of required to ask.


On the one hand I'd be a little resentful of being under suspicion, but on the other hand "yay! People are paying attention to me! Let me tell you all about myself ... "

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 8:28 pm UTC
by MoonBuggy
lesliesage wrote:First, I don't know what you guys are talking about, because they don't talk to people who are trying to leave the US unless you set off the metal detector with ammo or something.
Fair enough - that's the kind of thing (the fact that they don't stop you on the way out) that I needed to know, means that there's very little chance of missing a plane in either direction. Which is good.

++$_ wrote:It's much more likely to be detained without trial in Pakistan (for example) than in the US, but it pays to take some basic steps (like the above) to give yourself an out if something goes wrong.
Absolutely. Really I wasn't asking particularly in terms of 'am I going to get disappeared in the back of an unmarked van' because I know that on the spectrum of civil rights, the US is not half as bad as some places that I've been.

My main worries (which seem, pretty much, to have been deemed unfounded, which is good) were the potential to be turned around and sent home, and that of being delayed to the point that it interferes with my travel arrangements - both things that would put a downer on what otherwise promises to be a great trip. There will, of course, be people who know where I am and who would notice if I didn't come back.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:05 pm UTC
by Dobblesworth
A friend of mine recently went to the States for a summer holiday. On arrival he was detained for nearly 2 hours while security personnel pored through his passport and personal details. The reason? His passport had been recently issued and he shared a date of birth with a known terrorist suspect. Good luck getting off scot-free with Iran/China visitor stamps :wink:

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:28 pm UTC
by jtniehof
They will probably ask you for name, address, and phone number of where you're staying. Having that handy would have saved a number of friends a fair bit of trouble.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:45 pm UTC
by DJorgensen
segmentation fault wrote:hope you like cavity searches.


lol jk. maybe.

Depends on who is searching.
My dentist is just fine, but I am not too fond of others poking at my teeth.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 10:41 pm UTC
by bbctol
Keeping lawyers on call, having people get your schedule, it seems a little overkill to me if you're a white, law-abiding person. You will almost certainly get some extra questioning, but getting Gitmo'd? I doubt it.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 10:58 pm UTC
by mosc
They won't send you back. You need to allow extra time for screening. You need to accept your checked luggage will be opened along with anything you're carrying. Delay and some impolite treatment is the worst you are in for. If I may make a suggestion, it would be to dress in the classic business attire of an american professional and, ironically, to be conscious of your accent. A thick London accent may actually expedite the process but if you have something you know sounds more unfamiliar to american ears, I would over annunciate. But don't sound like you're over annunciating ;)

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Mon Mar 17, 2008 11:11 pm UTC
by arbivark
Most of the time, no problem.
Now and then, problem. That you are thinking ahead is good.
Friend 1 coming from canada to usa had his laptop stolen by TSA.
Friend 2 was turned away at border, had to stay in canada.
My experience: having to get off the bus at detroit, taxi over the border, get back on the bus, because I didn't have ID.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:09 am UTC
by Poochy
As a general rule of thumb, just allow extra time for screening. And if your skin is darker than their Sherwin-Williams khaki paint tiles, allow more extra time for them to "randomly" check everything including your dandruff, and declare everything less safe than oxygen lest they actually manage to find an excuse to fine you. It might also help to wear various Christian religious-symbol jewelry and preachy T-shirts.

But seriously, though, you'll be fine if you've never done and aren't planning to do anything illegal in the US. Customs will be a royal pain about it, but besides just being annoying, nothing really bad should happen.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:08 pm UTC
by lowbart
Poochy wrote: declare everything less safe than oxygen


Oxygen is actually pretty dangerous. It catches on fire easily.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:24 pm UTC
by Kizyr
Speaking as a brown person with a bunch of extra stamps in my own passport...

You'll be fine. Really. Most of the other stories you hear will be isolated incidents and/or overblown...

Let people know your schedule ahead of time. But this is just good practice in general for any emergency situation. Also know the locations and addresses of the place your planning on staying in the states--it's needed for filling out forms once you enter (at least, it is for every country outside the US I've been to; I don't imagine that aspect would be different for non-residents entering the US).

Now, you should allow yourself extra time. The US takes longer for customs than most other countries, including layovers. The only person actually checking your passport, most of the time, will be the person stamping it when you get processed through. They're more concerned about checking your ID and that the passport is legit, rather than the individual stamps inside of it. KF

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:00 pm UTC
by Endless Mike
lowbart wrote:
Poochy wrote: declare everything less safe than oxygen


Oxygen is actually pretty dangerous. It catches on fire easily.

Fun fact: Compressed oxygen is classified as a non-flammable gas for shipments.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:10 pm UTC
by Nath
Kizyr wrote:Speaking as a brown person with a bunch of extra stamps in my own passport...

You'll be fine. Really. Most of the other stories you hear will be isolated incidents and/or overblown...

Yeah, I'm in a similar situation and I agree. I do seem to get randomly selected for a closer look a little more often than the laws of probability would predict, but apart from that I've never run into any problems flying into or out of any country (including the US). Hell, most of the time people are almost courteous. Bordering on friendly, even.

Make sure you schedule plenty of time for any paperwork or security, and your travel plans are unlikely to be in much danger.

Edit: also, shave. Seriously. It'll save you a random screening or two.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:39 pm UTC
by morag
This worked for me. Have your passport open at the back page with your picture on it. With a bit of luck the security person will just stamped the page opposite (with out flicking through and seeing all the other interesting stamps).

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:57 pm UTC
by Moo
I am ammused by how everyone saying it won't be a problem is US citizens (or looks like it). So you have no idea what it is like trying to go into your country as a foreign national! Remember, Moonbuggy, that the US recently declared British tourists their number one considered terrorist threat now. I obviously don't have any authority on the matter either, but I wanted to remind you of that fact. I am, however, inclined to think that if you are very obviously white you can't be too much of a perceived threat.

I had lots of trouble with a valid visa as a South African with a British husband (long questioning and waiting for hours until my brother-in-law arrived at the airport to answer their questions as well, as the person we were visiting), and almost got turned away, but it's hardly the same thing. Hubby got less scrutiny. This was several years ago but after 9/11.

Some links to those comments on British travelers: The Evening Standard, and The Telegraph.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:07 pm UTC
by regua
The persistence of the US government in such highly thorough customs control and all these regulations, combined with the fact that 99% of the US population are actually immigrants is quite paradoxical.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:08 pm UTC
by segmentation fault
DJorgensen wrote:Depends on who is searching.
My dentist is just fine, but I am not too fond of others poking at my teeth.


well i mean teeth are the perfect place to hide bombs.

oh god i just felt myself get flagged for that one.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:11 pm UTC
by Nath
Moo wrote:I am ammused by how everyone saying it won't be a problem is US citizens (or looks like it). So you have no idea what it is like trying to go into your country as a foreign national!

I'm not American.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:12 pm UTC
by Flayer
The bastards let me in, you'll be fine. Honestly, I'm sorta like a hobo and they stopped me and I told them I might be looking for work and they STILL let me in.

(from Europe btw)

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:13 pm UTC
by Moo
Nath wrote:I'm not American.
Apologies. I meant "many of". That's what I meant by "(or looks like it)"; to account for those who don't list locations or the odd few who do and fall outside my generalization.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:20 pm UTC
by SecondTalon
regua wrote:The persistence of the US government in such highly thorough customs control and all these regulations, combined with the fact that 99% of the US population are actually immigrants is quite paradoxical.


Well.. no, that's not accurate. It's more accurate to say that 99% of the population of the US are either immigrants or descended from immigrants.

I mean, it's pretty obvious most of my ancestors can trace their lineage back to somewhere in Europe, but as I was born in the US, I'm not an immigrant.

What's paradoxical is that the US thinks of itself as the Land of the Free and the Land of Opportunity for Anyone, yet despite frequent immigration waves is still pretty xenophobic. Pretty much the kids and grandkids of an immigration wave spend their time hating the immigration wave that occurs in their lifetime, which is pretty stupid.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:22 pm UTC
by MoonBuggy
Thanks Moo - those kind of articles are the ones that got me to start this thread in the first place; comments like "Anyone identified as having 'suspicious indicators associated with travel behaviour' by US security would be prevented from boarding their flight." are exactly the kind of thing that worried me. Like I've said, I don't really believe that they'd randomly send me off to a prison camp, just that they have the power to ruin my trip.

Realistically, though, the fact that the vast majority of responses say I'll just need to negotiate security a bit more than the average person are very reassuring. I figure I should be fine and it's just in the hands noodly appendages of chance now.

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:28 pm UTC
by lesliesage
deleted

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:42 pm UTC
by Rat
dude if they give you shit just like open up your trench coat and pull out your uzis...

Re: Quick question about flying into the USA

Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 5:08 pm UTC
by segmentation fault
lesliesage wrote:So let's see, if they detained one in every hundred thousand people coming in, that would still be thousands of detainees per year. Dudes. This is not happening. Not detainees, and not ruined trips for tourists.


considering the terrorist watch list is in the millions, i wouldnt be surprised if they are wasting vast amounts resources to do that. dont be so trusting.

us citizens are being held at airports because of macbook airs. i mean yeah the worst is they miss their flight, but still, security isnt as smart as you think it is.

Rat wrote:dude if they give you shit just like open up your trench coat and pull out your uzis...


suddenly, marijuana...