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Ever seen anyone sent to secondary for immigration?

I’m sure many of us have seen the border control shows where they have all sorts of interesting scenarios of people going through passport control.

Ever acting seen anyone have to take a seat and wait for a secondary interview?

I have, once at Heathrow in that fun immigration queue. A guy of traditional college student age, 18-25 and probably closer to 18. My mind was running wild with whatever the reason was. No proper student visa? Trying to ‘find himself’ and no ticket home? Previously working as tourist? Thinking he’s found true love?

Another time, I saw a backpacker type getting grilled entering Ireland at Dublin. It was December and he was dressed in clothes that would have been chilly in California much less Ireland. Never saw what the final outcome was, he was getting questioned for at least 20 minutes, I got less than a minute of questions and I was in.

Posted by
790 posts

No, I haven’t ever noticed that, but it reminded me of (what is now) a funny story. I was traveling back to the U.S. with a less-experienced friend after a nice trip to southeast England. Our very cheap flight took us from LHR to Zurich for a plane change. London was fine but in Zurich she was pulled aside for extra questioning, while I was sent on through smoothly. One of the questions that came around a couple of times, regardless of her U.S. passport, was “Are you Indian?” Her answer: a not so patient “Well, yes! I’m half Choctaw but why does that matter?” She didn’t figure out till later (after we narrowly made it on the connecting flight) he was not talking about the Oklahoma kind of Indian. :)

Posted by
1649 posts

I got pulled aside by immigration control as I breezed through baggage claim, without claiming any bags and in an obvious big hurry, on my flight from London back to the United States. I had to explain to the nice lady that I had an apartment at both ends and was traveling with just my tote bag.

Posted by
5429 posts

My travel companion got pulled aside in Beijing airport in 2009 (you, follow me!) when the fever sensors detected a higher temperature -- she got quarantined for a number of hours but finally was released with a certificate saying (in Chinese, if course) that she did NOT have the swine flu H1N1 virus.

Posted by
1150 posts

Yep, my father-in-law in Miami at security (not immigration) on our way home after a cruise. He is from Portugal and speaks English very well, but trips over it when he gets nervous or excited. The woman at security asked him if he had a laptop in his bag, and she had an accent too. He didn't understand her and she didn't understand him, and it went downhill fast. They took him away for some further questioning. We got him back in about fifteen minutes.

That flight never even went. Bad weather had us delayed for hours at the gate and they finally cancelled until the next day. We had to do security again!

Posted by
777 posts

Yes, twice at Heathrow:

On one occasion I have had a US colleague, stopped, questioned and subsequently deported back to the US. We were going to the UK to give a two day training course and it seems he had done this once two often... later it came out that he had been warned on the previous occasion, but ignored the warning.

On another occasion I was going in with a Russian colleague, who had been a staff officer in the Soviet forces, back in the day, so that was always going to be a problem... and in typical Russian style he was not going to give anything away... Where are you going? London... Where are you staying? a hotel, Why are you here? to a conference... after about an hour of me sitting outside waiting for him a more senior officer came along and asked me if I was waiting a Russian and could I vouche for him? After asking me a few more questions, they let him in.

And of course before the Good Friday Agreement was signed, I was stoped about 8 out of 10 times, for a body search and interview... being Irish with former military training was an issue.

Posted by
726 posts

My then 22 year old son and I took the Best of Turkey tour in Septmember, 2019. We flew back from Istanbul to Chicago on Turkish Airlines. We had gone to the Egyptian Spice Market the day before our return flight and packed our bags (carry on) with goodies. The security at IST wasn't too happy about the spices and teas and went through every small compartment of my son's bag. A supervisor came over and spoke to the screeners at the gate and told them it was OK saying, "Look, they went to the spice market yesterday, everything is fine".
Twelve hours later, we landed in Chicago. Because of our recent experience, we were a little worried. They couldn't care less about our spices and teas, but my son's age and appearance and where we were flying from did get their attention. He had to speak with 3 different border control officers. They would not let me be present for his interview, but they conducted it at a desk where I could see him, not behind closed doors. They interviewed him for 15 minutes. He told me they asked him: What countries did you visit, why did you want to visit Turkey, did you go to Syria, what cities in Turkey did you visit, did you get near the Syrian border, what other country besides Turkey did you visit, did you go to Syria, what sites in Turkey did you visit, did you meet with any Syrians....and on line this.
The officers were polite and he did not feel like he was bullied in any way.

Posted by
1597 posts

Yes I have seen that several times.

And one of my employees had his wife go through it. She was returning to the US from Bermuda on her student Visa. It took them 5 hours to get through the mess. Luckily she now has a green card so she can go home without this again hopefully.

(yes she was a student, they met while in college and got married. The plan was if she didn't get a green card he would move to Bermuda)

Posted by
51 posts

My brother gets stopped all the time ... seems he has the same name as a wanted IRA member from back when that was a big issue years ago ... no grilling, just pulled aside, bags checked, few questions, etc... he went to Rome last year, need to ask if he got pulled out again ...

Posted by
2814 posts

Immigration, no, but extra security screening, yes. After 9/11, I was the “random” person selected for extra screening every time I returned from Europe. I’m sure it was because of my Arabic last name. I got pulled aside so much, my wife and I started going through security separately. On one occasion in Paris we got pulled out of line while waiting to check in at the counter. We were taken to a separate room and our bags were emptied. After checking in, I got pulled over again going through security for additional screening. Finally, I got pulled aside one last time just prior to boarding the plane, but to be fair, every passenger got checked prior to boarding. It hasn’t happened recently but I always check for the dreaded 3 or 4 stars on my boarding pass indicating I am again, the random person.

At Heathrow, I’ve frequently seen people set aside and have always wondered what it is they we pulled aside for.

Posted by
4458 posts

I have been sent to secondary immigration, although not because of any problem. Don’t necessarily assume that the individual waiting did anything wrong.

In my case, I was arriving at Heathrow with a 3 year work/residence visa. There were a couple extra steps including an interview with health services where the questions focused on TB risk. I was told there was a risk of TB in some parts of the US. I explained to the nurse that I had been living in Sweden for the past two years and asked if there was a TB risk and she said no. I had to provide my local address and was told I’d be contacted by the NHS to schedule a chest x-ray. I lived in London for a year and was never contacted.

Posted by
5572 posts

I checked the customs form "box" about being in close proximity to livestock. We were returning from a walking trip across England which included crossing sheep and cattle pastures. That sent us to secondary screening where they disinfected our boots after learning the details of our trip. They didn't ask about our trekking poles, but I bleach sanitized the poles after returning home.

Posted by
3436 posts

Returning to the US from Jamaica in the era when Coke had been recently replaced with New Coke and people were doing everything they could to find the old Coke, a woman announced to her friend that her suitcase was "stuffed full of Coke cans" because the new Coke had not made it to Jamaica yet. You could see the ears of every immigration agent in the hall perk up since they thought she had said something else that sounds like "Coke cans". She was sent to a private room for additional screening. Never saw her again.

Another more recent incident was going through security in Houston and they shut the Pre Check lane down while several of us were already in it and sent us to the regular line. Man in front of me, who I had been chatting with and found he was to be on the same flight as I was, began to complain loudly about how he had paid for Pre and demanded to get the "proper treatment" that paying for the service entailed (he had a British accent and I think he may have had a few drinks). When he went through the scanner, it went off and he was pulled aside and escorted to a private room for further screening. As he was being led away, he yelled "Help! I'm being repressed!" He was not on our flight. I guess he got the "treatment" he paid for.

Posted by
5414 posts

Nor secondary immigration but one trip I was returning from an RS Tour of Istanbul. On the card had written in under countries visited, Turkey.

Lines were extremely long and I recall the flight crew panicking they’d miss their new flight. Only two agents and one was making them wait. People were getting antsy including me trying to figure out with 3 planes loads of passengers why more agents weren’t assigned ( then again it’s LAX one of the worst mismanged airports in the universe) ....

Anyway, I finally get up to the agent, he glances at my card and says “ you bring turkey home!” I start to laugh then realize he’s serious and he again says “you bring turkey home, why bring turkey?”

I calmly reply “Not bringing turkey home, went to Turkey.” Again he asks “ why bring turkey home?”

Again I reply “ I went to Turkey, the country.”

He looks at me and shakes his head while muttering
“ who brings a turkey home?”

Now I’m pissed but instead of calling him a complete idiot I raise my voice a little so his nearby colleague can hear me and repeat “ I visited Istanbul which is in Turkey the country.” As his useless companion once again asks about trying to bring in a turkey his colleague yells, “ she’s ok, let her through.”

I still shake my head at the stupidity.

Posted by
80 posts

Once I was taking a bus from Seattle to Vancouver British Columbia. While at the border most of us got through the questions quickly but we kept waiting to get back on the bus. We waited, waited, waited and wondered what was going on. Finally a 20 something male passenger came out of the office looking sheepish. He explained that the customs office didn't like his answers and he got grilled. It went like this - "How long are you going to be in Canada" - Answer "I'm not really sure but going to visit friends". Question "Where are you staying" - Answer "Mostly with friends" - Question "what kind of work do you do" - "I'm unemployed right now". You get the drift. He must have answered the 2nd officers questions satisfactorily because they did let him through and after a 20 minute delay were able to get back on the road again.

Posted by
16804 posts

I’ve been sent inside for an interview at the Canadian land border — for the suspicious action of traveling alone. It was the third time (each a couple of years apart) that I made a solo trip to spend a day eating at Chinese restaurants in Richmond, BC (as encouraged by their tourist board) and visiting the night market. Canadian immigration clearly thought I could be smuggling something. It took an extra half hour of repetitive questions (at the desk, not in a closed office) about why was I alone, why didn’t I tell anyone my plan, when did I make the plan, and what was I going to do there, before they got around to searching the car (empty but for a small overnight bag). Another question was why I was driving a different car or (the actual case) had changed the license plates. Of course, they should have been well aware that the state of Washington required all plates to be changed in recent years to add an extra digit. No harm done, but I was starting to worry about getting seated for lunch at one of the popular spots!

P.S. They also went all through my purse and cell phone.

Also, a few times while crossing European borders, for instance on the Venice-Munich train and the Bilbao-Biarritz bus, people have been taken off when their passports didn’t check out. These were open borders within the Schengen zone, but officers still were looking for certain people. In both of these examples, the men taken off had decided to sit next to my mother, so now she worries about anyone who sits by her.

Posted by
7354 posts

Claudia, your experience could be on SNL!
And these are the people screening in-coming passengers?!! Omg.

Posted by
20792 posts

If you fly often you will be selected for secondary screening just because of the random nature. But I had humorous experience going through Heathrow within a year after 9/11. I think they were still trying to figure out how to do. We normally secure our luggage with the heavy, plastic wire ties. I keep a large nail clipper in an unsecured pocket of my main carry on bag to cut the wire ties later. When returning to the US we check everything except for small, shoulder, duffel bag style, carry-on bag. Since the plane home was not departing until afternoon we did some sightseeing that morning and had left all of our luggage with the hotel. So I secured all of our bags, include the small carry-on, with the wire ties.

In the security line at the airport, someone is coming down the line and directing, maybe every tenth person, to a hand screening area. I got lucky. The area was a line of very small cubicles with a table. The directions said put your bag on the table, opened it and step back. A couple of officers can down the line half unpacking the bags, taking stuff out, probing the contents and looking at some items. With a nod you repacked and left the area. Now I have a problem. Since we don't normally secure our carry-on bag but had that morning and the toe nail clipper is in the checked luggage, I cannot open the bag. As the young female officer approached I ask her if she had scissors or a knife. Obviously, the question caused a puzzled look and a shake of the head followed by, "Why??" I pointed to the little white plastic loop holding all the zipper pulls together and said, "My bag has been sealed and I have nothing to cut it." Why I used the word, sealed, I have no idea but it seemed to be the magic word. Her eye's brighten with big smile she says, "If it is sealed, you can go." And pointed to the exit. So I did.

Posted by
4418 posts

I am retired from US Government service, my last job was with DHS. Still, I have been selected for secondary screening in the USA twice. I was told it was random. I still had my old DHS cancelled credentials that they wouldn't look at. The screening wasn't very long, perhaps 5-8 minutes.

Posted by
5572 posts

If you fly often you will be selected for secondary screening just because of the random nature.

Screening is not necessarily random. A friend had a secondary immigration screening a number of years ago. Her husband was a United Airlines captain flying SFO to Japan and return. She would often fly as family and going for a day plus her only baggage was a small carry on (probably similar to CWsocial). Apparently CBP tracks travel patterns because they interrogated her about the number of short turnaround trips she made to Japan and the frequency of the trips.

Posted by
425 posts

In 1979 I was travelling with my family from China to Hong Kong by train. Back then you had to get off the Chinese train and walk across the border with your suitcases, pass through a Chinese military exit interview and then enter Hong Kong. My mom had bought a traditional Chinese rosewood chest and packed all of our souvenirs in it. She then tied it shut with a series of knots. The officer interviewing us was not happy and was getting ready to essentially send us all to be stripped searched when my dad produced the papers showing that he had been part of an official US-China scientific delegation. We were waived through without further questions.

Posted by
1352 posts

Oh, yeah. Iceland June 2018. Random check and we were on a tight connection. I was sweating a bit.

I was taken to a room and treated politely and professionally, Had to take my shoes and socks off. Fortunately, I shower a lot. Out of there in about 10 minutes and thankfully my flight was delayed a bit. I was calculating in my head how much it would cost to reschedule the flight, hotel, rental car, and so forth. Ka-ching.

Let's just say I really like non-stop flights.

Posted by
4880 posts

about every time I go through Heathrow, I see a few people "taking seats". Myself, other than the USDA when I return, I have not had any issues.

Posted by
3542 posts

Claudia, if you’d come home from China, the security guy would’ve wanted to know how many place settings you were bringing home. And if you’d had a china gravy boat, that would’ve been handy with that turkey!

Posted by
11475 posts

I have been sent to a room twice, once at JFK, once in Houston. After a 10 min wait with all the other suspects each time I was asked my name and if I was a criminal. I said no and was allowed to leave.

I was detained on arrival to Tel Aviv. That took an hour. The Israelis now know more about me than any other person alive.

I have been searched after going through the metal detector a number of times.

I have had my baggage searched by officers in the gangway just outside the plane door.

In Amsterdam I have had my luggage checked on two occasions in the waiting area. before boarding the plane..

Always a polite experience and no hard feelings....

It seems to be better now that I have Global Entry.

Posted by
3542 posts

Like Edgar, we answered that we’d been in proximity of livestock, having crossed sheep pastures to see neolithic and other historic structures in Ireland. But we hadn’t been on a pasture the final week, before flying back to the USA. This was in 2011.

Having collected our bags at the luggage carousel, and presenting our declaration card at the Denver airport we got pulled aside for an additional screening. They didn’t look inside our bags, where we’d packed the trekking shoes we’d worn in the pastures. Instead, they swabbed the handles of our bags, which had never been near a sheep. They inserted the swabs into a scanner. I don’t know, but suspect the swabs were what they used to check for explosives residue. We got thru, and were glad that, although the sheep had left a LOT of manure “land mines” in the pastures, none of them were terrorists.

My brother’s a musician, and has flown with both electric and upright double basses. Once, learning that he had a bass in his case, two airport people debated what kind of person would be packing a fish, like a striped bass. Other times, it was suspected he was trying to get a baseball bat through, when he mentioned “bass.” This all has resulted in him now just describing it as a “big guitar,” which seems to be less confusing than explaining a string or electric bass.

Posted by
263 posts

I had a similar experience to nwnews2, but I was travelling in the opposite direction, from Vancouver to Seattle. Similarly, a young man was also asked why he was travelling. At first I was not paying attention, but then I realised that he was always being asked the same questions, and giving the same answers. He was always replying that he was going to visit some friends or relatives (I forget which). After about half an hour, most of us got back on the bus, except for the young man who was being questioned. Of course I have no idea what happened to him.

Posted by
5572 posts

Not immigration screening but secondary enhanced security screening. A year or two ago I was a "random pick" for secondary security screening at the gate area for a flight returning the the US. While waiting at the boarding area, my name came up on the boarding gate monitor to report to the desk with my carry-on. The enhanced screening was both questions and a hand check of my carry-on before departure.

Posted by
9466 posts

Last spring, changing planes in Frankfurt my daypack was pulled off to screen for explosives. It was taking a long time and the agent was making notes on a clipboard, which signaled something was amiss. I asked “What’s wrong?” “It tests positive for explosives. The police are coming” he tells me. What!?!?

A very polite German police officer with a heavily armed escort questioned me quite thoroughly with my hubby anxiously hovering nearby. No idea why it came up as suspicious but after completely unpacking the bag they allowed us to go on our way. High adrenaline moment.

Posted by
1217 posts

We've also gotten sent to secondary over sheep pasture reasons. The folks at JFK seemed a bit confused at that and had us send our checked bags but nothing else through the scanners a second time and then told us we were free to go catch our connecting flight.

Posted by
3436 posts

Some lotions which contain glycerin will show a false positive for explosives. While not common, the closer to the time it is applied to hands, the greater the chance it will give the false positive. And if it is on your hands, it will be transferred to anything you touch.

In my case, before 09/11, I visited an Alaskan gold mine where they were actively blasting. I touched a lot of the blasted out rubble. I then went to pack my suitcase before heading to the airport. My bag was checked with the explosive detection swab and came up positive. Turns out that nitro glycerin is difficult to wash off and it was spread to my suitcase by my touching it. After every single item in my suitcase was swabbed and the lining torn out of the suitcase, I was allowed to proceed. I had to throw out the suitcase when I got home.

Posted by
5572 posts

...nitro glycerin is difficult to wash off....

A friend did summer trail construction work in the mountains. The trail work including handling dynamite to blast rock. Half a year later, flying to a winter ski camp, TSA's swab of her backpack set of the alarm bells.

Posted by
5298 posts

The OP was about being stopped at passport control, versus at customs or security screening. I've seen plenty of customs or security second interviews, but not passport control that I recall. Usually too tired to pay attention.

Posted by
85 posts

Never had an issue inbound in Europe or elsewhere outside of US.
However coming back to San Francisco with Global Entry my wife is always given the a clean pass through at the kiosk and is then waived through. For me I always get the see immigration officer code. I am then required to present my passport to be scanned again after which I am always then greeted with something akin to "Welcome Home, no questions.
I assumed it was an issue with my fingerprints as they often take more than one scan. Or did I look too nervous on the photo?
Finally last time after many trips I asked, How Come?
Because you have an arrest record was the response. Ah, now I see. Homeland Security means business.
My only record :
The "arrest" was something I disclosed on my Global Entry Application:
In the 60's in Chicago ,my original home town, at the age of 16 I was arrested and issued a citation for refusing to disperse.
The "crime" was a civil rights protest .
Amazing that this is something that causes the system to requires the extra step of a passport scan but never any question. I still love having Global Entry and it is not a big deal but it is very curious to me ...IE the thinking behind it. We always laugh about it.

Posted by
646 posts

Like Edgar, it's having been on a farm that caught us coming home last September. Walking through a cow pasture cost us twenty minutes and having our bags opened. It was all very polite and nonthreatening. I did get tired of assuring them that we had indeed cleaned our shoes.

Posted by
29 posts

When my daughter was three, she, myself and my mother went to Glacier National Park (MT) and then were planning on a few days over the border in Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta). For some reason, I did not bring a letter from her father for the trip, and they wouldn't let us cross at first. At three years old, despite me telling her that she needed to answer the lady's questions, my daughter wouldn't speak to the stranger. It took some time, but they/we finally got her father, who had to then answer a number of questions about her/us and we finally got through.

Kudos to the agent though, for looking out for abductions, etc! And Waterton Lakes Park did not disappoint! And note to self, always bring that letter...

Posted by
3542 posts

Wow, MA Traveler, that’s a surprise. Subjecting you to scrutinization now, more than 50 years after you were given a citation as a juvenile? Welcome home, indeed.

And it’s been great hav Global Entry, despite the one time the machine malfunctioned and I had to get in line to see a person anyway. In the past, every time, the greeting wasn’t so much “Welcome Home,” as something like, “So you went to Europe, huh? And now you want us to let you back into the USA? How come you left the U.S. in the first place?” My thoughts - to get away from a place with such an attitude!

Posted by
6463 posts

I flew in from Cancun to IAH airport in Houston and got the mark to go to secondary screening.
They asked me where was I coming from and I told them Mexico for ten days and they said you only have one little bag I said yeah it was 90 degrees there. The customs agent then rifled quickly through the dirty laundry underwear in my bag and let me go.
I think they stopped me maybe because I was the only black passenger in line in the series of arriving flights or because I was wearing a Cuba sweatshirt or a combination of both. This was a little after the 911 Osama bin laden is coming to America scare and climate

On the other hand I use to work arrivals at International terminal 5 O'hare Airport for Virgin Atlantic.
Often times whenever there was still a bag going around and around on the baggage carousel after the passengers from a particular flight have all gone, we would have to check secondary and usually it was someone from developing nations (usually former UK colonies) wherever Virgin Atlantic operated that connected in London stuck in secondary for various reasons. Sometimes the Customs Border agent would tell us that we would have to put that person on the next flight back to London leaving 4 hours later.

Posted by
1150 posts

Before 9/11 I was always the person "randomly selected " to have my bag swabbed for explosives.... which I always thought was hysterical and that I was being chosen because I d not give them flak.... middle aged pudgy white woman flying alone maybe twice a year. After 9/11 I never got "randomly " pulled again. .... even 2 times I probably should have been.... once when the friend I'd been visiting in Texas put my suitcase for the trip back to the airport into the trunk of her car with her grandfather 's loose gun collection. The second time I did it to myself. I attended a graveside service with a 21 gun salute and lent my gloves to two kids to use as receptacles for the brass casing they picked up. Then I shoved the gloves into my coat pockets, and 3days later went blithely off to the airport
I have an actual immigration story, but I'll save that for tomorrow

Posted by
85 posts

Yes, Cyn, I was really surprised when I found out. Yes it was a minor violation as a minor, 50 years or so ago. (and for a good cause I must say ). I am just so curious as to the thinking behind this. What are they protecting us from by requiring the agent to rescan my passport into the same system? I find it humorous even though it appears quite dysfunctional. In any case I do enjoy having Global Entry along with the PreCheck. Much less stress . Even with my "record" I have found the agents at SFO professional. Usually like robots but occasionally a welcome home remark. Your airport may be different.

Posted by
141 posts

As a young child, I got my mother pulled aside at jfk because I kept going on about all the beautiful jewels she had when the agent asked if she had anything to declare and she said no. It was costume jewelry and not much, but I thought it was like a treasure chest of priceless jewels at the time. She wasn’t amused then, but 40 years later she can laugh about it!

My husband got pulled into a separate room at Frankfurt airport because he had some packets of lemonade mix (powdery substance). They let him keep it but we’ll just toss it in the future before heading to the airport.

Posted by
7732 posts

Yes, we got pulled aside and sent to immigration quite a few years ago, transiting in Dallas-Ft.Worth on our way from Frankfurt to California. Waiting and waiting and waiting, thinking we were going to miss our connection and wondering why in the world we were sent here as all 3 of us were American citizens. Finally, get called over and asked what my mother's maiden name was. My passport was flagged as it was a replacement for one that was stolen and that was the question attached with it in their computers. Sheesh! They were not very friendly either.

Posted by
8908 posts

I witnessed this happen at Newark Airport immigration a few years ago: While waiting in a long line for the passport check a bunch 20something friends returning from Amsterdam were openly talking about their drug usage during their stay. A father with some young children asked them to lower their voices. They snickered and continued the conversation. The father then gave them an ultimatum, "lower your voices or I will see to it you get stripped searched!". The conservation continued. When the father got to the booth I saw him pointing out the college kids to the immigration officer. Fast forward to the baggage carousels in the Customs Hall. A whole team of plain clothes Customs Agents poured out of the back rooms and escorted them to the back rooms, where I'm sure we all know what happened;)

Posted by
3145 posts

Several times upon departure. Always happy to accommodate (as if I had a choice 😉) and what you label as “grilling“ is completely understandable.

Posted by
11779 posts

One or both of us have been selected for secondary security checks, usually involving carryon searches, swabbing for who-knows-what and additional questions, so often that it's a big day when it doesn't happen!

A security officer at Gatwick years ago gave us a wink and said we'd been chosen 'cause we looked like nice people who wouldn't give him any difficulties. :O)

Posted by
230 posts

I was last year in Newark. When I asked why I was told it was just routine and took less than 2 minutes. Seems they do so many people per shift hoping to keep those coming into the country on their toes. They asked me if I was traveling with anyone, how long was I gone and why did I go. That was it.

Posted by
96 posts

The "crime" was a civil rights protest .
Amazing that this is something that causes the system to requires the extra step of a passport scan but never any question. I still love having Global Entry and it is not a big deal but it is very curious to me ...IE the thinking behind it. We always laugh about it.

I too had a misdemeanor arrest that I disclosed on my Global Entry app and was stopped the first 3 times I returned from the U.K. (after getting Global Entry). The 2nd time it happened, I asked how many more times I’d have to do this additional screening and was told the flag would be removed within 6 months. It was gone 3 months later and I haven’t had a problem since. Global Entry is great when it works.

Posted by
85 posts

Rosebud, Interesting yours went away after 6 months. I have had Global Entry now for almost 4 years and it still hasn't gone away after numerous trips. Maybe I will ask next time.

Posted by
1150 posts

When I was 23 I visited my college best friend who was wrapping up a year as a rotary scholar in England .

I was gone 8 days and my luggage consisted of a day pack and a fanny back. My friend thought this was a great chance to send some luggage home with me, and we weren't even sophisticated enough to take her tags off and put my name on .
This was 1988. Upon my landing in st Louis, Of course I got pulled for having an obscene amount of luggage for an 8 day trip. I was so exhausted and worn out I confessed everything and cried (seems like this whole process took like 2 hours) they did let me unzip one of the large checked bags and remove my day back from with in it
They impounded my friend's luggage (she was not due stateside for 6 weeks) and they did let her mom pick up her bags a few days later.

Posted by
478 posts

In July 2016 the officials at London Heathrow airport made me wait in a group jail-like holding cell for i migrants and suspicious people, for just under 4 hours. The employee whose job it was to check passports asked for my itinerary. I had bought my plane tickets from Expedia. I immediately figured out that the employee probably wanted to see the confirmation page from Expedia showing my travel dates, evidence I was leaving going to leave England, and so on. I had printed the confirmation page and left it on my couch. The employees gave me a brief time to use the internet and my tablet computer to find my information. I took to long trying to search through my e-mail. I forgot my Expedia password. Then they took my picture, my fingerprints, put me in the holding tank, and put my stuff in a closet just outside the holding tank where I couldn’t access it. Finally a woman employee not older than me interviewed me. As I talked she took 4 pages of notes. She was pleasant enough. She seemed quite interested in every sentence I said. She hand-wrote 4 pages of notes on approximately 8-1/2 x 11 inch lined loose notebook papers. Everything she wrote was drivel. She finally let me use my tablet computer to search through my e-mail until I found my information from Expedia. Then she was approximately satisfied. Just after leaving the holding tank, I was standing next to two employees, watching them thoroughly search through my one carry-on sized duffle bag. They took everything out and put it all back in. Then the lady interviewer gave me back my passport and wished me to have a good trip, as if suddenly they decided they made a big fuss over something trivial. I had thought they were going to make me immediately fly home and miss my trip.

Posted by
3542 posts

Wow, the last 2 posts are unsettling. Back in 1988, no one was asking passengers if they’d packed their bags themselves, or if anyone else had given them something to carry. And aside from maybe being cumbersome, as long as the airline was willing to transport the baggage, what’s the real harm in carrying a huge amount?

Then secondly, 4 hours for no apparent, explained reason? And then a sudden release, with well-wishes for a pleasant journey? Too bad they couldn’t have allowed enough time to find the e-mail itinerary info the first time. Would’ve saved the authorities time, as well as Mike L ! So, Mike, did they offer you bread or water in the holding cell? And was it’s walls the milky green glass that seems to make up the walls in the rest of Heathrow?

Posted by
8908 posts

Back in 1988, no one was asking passengers if they’d packed their
bags themselves, or if anyone else had given them something to carry.

If you were flying to Israel they certainly were.

Posted by
790 posts

They were asking in Japan as far back as 1976, when my new husband and I moved (as inexperienced 20 year olds) - and sent an extra suitcase each with a group of summer exchange students headed to the same place. That group left a couple of weeks before I did and when I got there, they told tales of being asked what was inside the suitcases (and they had no idea - not having thought to ask and neither me nor my husband having thought to tell them). Fortunately all the students were allowed in with all our belongings for 2 years of a new life. :)

Posted by
12 posts

SSSS on your boarding pass, means you have been selected for Secondary Security Screening Selection. How do I know, it has happened to me multiple times.

This past January, I had it flying from Berlin to Pittsburgh, via London, on BA. It was only on my LHR - PIT boarding pass, not TXL - LHR; it was also on my luggage tag, on my checked suit case. The search was prior to boarding the Pittsburgh flight at the LHR gate, no extra security in Berlin or changing at Heathrow. They always say it is at the request of the US. I could tell my checked bag was also searched.

I have TSA Pre and Global Entry, and the Global Entry works fine, even after getting the SSSS.

I have no idea why this happens. It does not happen all the time, but has been multiple times on domestic and international flights. When it does happen, I am unable to check-in on-line, and must get my boarding pass at the airport.

Posted by
3542 posts

I didn’t realize the extensive security screenings for some locations for so long. The situation caught up with the rest of the world, sure enough.

So is Spain still screening for trains, more than many places?

I wonder if body temperature measurements will eventually become commonplace?

Posted by
270 posts

I have had it happen a few times.

Once I was coming back from Turkey, and I had a small bag of dried apricots that I had planned to finish eating before we arrived back in the US. I reported honestly that I had food with me when I filled out the customs form, and they sent me to a room for special screening. When I got to the agricultural inspection room, the officer asked me why I was there. I held up my little bag of apricots. The guy said: "They sent you in here for that?" I nodded yes, and he shook his head incredulously and sent me on my way.

The next two times happened about six weeks ago when I was trying to get home from Egypt at the beginning of the Covid crisis. It's a long story, but the basically we were flying from Cairo to Istanbul with a plane change in Athens. When we got to Athens, border security took the passports from all the Americans (and only Americans) and herded us into a corner for what seemed like an interminable time. After a while they let us to another area where we stood around for about thirty minutes, still without our passports. Eventually, someone came out of an office and returned our passports to us. I never figured out what was going on. We breathed a sigh of relief and made our way to our connecting flight. When we arrived in Istanbul, border patrol refused us entrance into Turkey. Fortunately, Turkish Airlines was able to re-ticket us on a flight back to the US the next morning. Also fortunately, there was a hotel inside the new airport terminal, and so we were able to have a place to stay for the night before heading home.

Posted by
478 posts

The holding cell had a drinking fountain, a bathroom, tables and chairs, mats on the floor and one or more blankets. They offered me some kind of room-temperature shelf-stable packaged food ration. I declined it, hoping I would be able to get something better; I have no clue whether they would have let me get my floss and toothbrush.

Posted by
3542 posts

Mike L - probably no floss or toothbrush allowed - in case you’d be able to “MacGuyver” some kind of weapon or escape device from them! 😄

Posted by
116 posts

I got pulled aside clearing immigration in Dublin. Our flight was late arriving from Lisbon and they had about 20 of us that were flying on to Chicago on a pull aside sheet as we went through US Immigration. It was hilarious. They had to take everything out of my back pack. When they got to the large plastic squeaky hammer bopper that I got in Porto for the Feast of St. John, they had to ask what I had that for. It is tradition, on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, that you hit people on the head with a plastic soft squeaky hammer. We happened to get one in a bar for free and partook in the head bopping tradition. Immigration thought they needed to confiscate it to use on some of the boneheads that came through immigration. They gave it back but had a chuckle that day. BTW. The squeaky plastic hammer is a recent invention. Old school used the top of a really long garlic flower.