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Your Worst POE experiences outside of the US

Your Worst POE experiences outside of the US

Old Dec 10, 15, 4:19 pm
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Your Worst POE experiences outside of the US

No doubt by a mile, my worst experiences with non-CBP border guards are those NZ border officers at AKL airport.

I have a former classmate buddy who now lives in Howick. So I have now visited him three times in the past two years including recently several days ago. All three visits have been en-route to and from MEL (where I usually go to visit relatives for 1-2 weeks).

Earlier this week, I came through AKL again on my way back to California after spending 1.5 weeks visiting my aunt and cousin in Melbourne. And just like my previous two entries into AKL, I was once again flagged for secondary inspection where for 2+ hours, my bags, laptop, phone were thoroughly searched and I was grilled with questions asked in loud, rapid fire tones by an officious and downright surly young female officer concerning my visit to NZ, what I do for a living, what my friend does, etc.

Personally, I have low expectations when dealing with border guards. I fully understand they have a difficult job to do. I don't expect them to welcome travellers with open arms and thus I don't anticipate any smile nor hellos. If they want to search my personal belongings, I'm fine with that as well. All I ask is that the examination is done in a non-hostile manner.

Non-hostile however, doesn't apply at AKL immigration. For goodness sake I'm just visiting a friend and I have a stable job as a financial planner. I pleaded repeatedly with her to call my friend and speak to him to prove I wasn't lying only to have her refuse and snap back at me "Sir, we are the ones making the decision on your admissibility status so under no circumstances are you allowed to interfere!"

Despite having made truthful declarations concerning biosecurity and other goods while maintaining my cool by honestly answering the questions that were fired by the officer whom at the end found nothing to indicate I'm there to solicit in illegal activities, she still continued the aggressive grilling with one false accusation after another. This was more or less a carbon copy of my previous two entries there. This time they even took it up a notch by asking for my employer's contact, called and even spoke to my superior to ensure I am employed there. Needless to say when I returned to work today, my superior was absolutely flabbergasted that she would receive a call from a federal worker from a foreign country. I simply told her I have little to no rights at an international border in a foreign land so I had no choice but to surrender the information.

Anyways after the search and call to my employer revealed nothing illegal nor untruthful stories, she still did not believe I was just coming to visit a friend and the false accusations by the officer continued with statements such as:

"No one comes to NZ for only 3 days, why are you lying to me?"

"You know it is illegal to work here without a permit, and I have enough suspicions to believe you are here for more than the 3 days you stated to accept employment!"

"Only someone planning to engage in illegal activities such as drug trafficking would come for a short visit. So if you are not here to work, then you fit the profile of such! The sooner you come clean and admit the truth, the easier it will be for us to determine your admissibility!"

WTH? So I have to "lie" and "fabricate" my story that I am there to work or admit that I am involved in a drug run for them to end the grilling only to "deny" me entry?

Finally after more of the same false accusations and me refusing to change the story that I am really there to just pay a visit and stay with a friend for only 3 days, she agreed to phone my friend and with no obvious red flags in the conversation, I was allowed to enter the country. No apologies nor did she nor any of her colleagues offered assistance to repack my luggages. At that time I was already emotionally drained out and wanted no further stay in secondary so I just quickly stuffed everything back inside and headed for the counters to pick up my rental car to head to my friend's home.

After three very unpleasant encounters with AKL immigration, I will not be planning another visit there any time soon. I'm not sure why I deserve such treatments despite being cooperative, truthful and never once raising my temper. Was it because I've always entered as a solo traveller? FYI most of the other people I saw in secondaries were young and traveling alone. Also the officers who cross examined me in secondaries all three times looked very young (two females and one male). Though they were each different officers on the three separate entries, they all shared the same attitudes - officious and surly in a power tripping mission. Also since I had been selected for secondary the previous two entries (even though I never violated any laws), did it automatically raise a red flag on my third visit since most likely it was in their system the moment my passport was scanned?

Regardless, even if I have to return back to NZ, you bet I will not be selecting AKL as a POE. And really, a return to NZ is a big "IF" for me regardless of POE.

I have encountered heavy questionings by the Aussies several times for my entries into MEL including this past visit, but unlike AKL, they have all been done in a neutral an professional demeanour which is all that I expect for.

I don't know why AKL is such a PITA whereas my entries to many 1st world countries such as Schengen, Singapore, South Korea have been so hassle-free. There, the border officers in these countries rarely ask me questions, let alone send me to secondary for two-hour grillings. Do they smile and welcome me with open arms? No. But usually it's a scan of my passport, a quick look at my face, a stamp on the page and I'm on my way.

Am I alone or do any other FTers have had unpleasant run ins with AKL border officers?

Outside of the US (enough rough stories there), what have been your worst port of entries in dealing with border guards?

BTW I have nothing against Kiwis after my treatments at the hands of their border guards. I am fully aware these power tripping folks at AKL do not represent personality of the average New Zealander.
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Old Dec 10, 15, 4:27 pm
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I think by law, you can't do much.. however, I'd try to involve the media in here, including the national tourism board of NZ, or whatever they're called. They might have some interest and it could get an outcome that the border dragon might not like

I've never really had bad stories myself.. worst one was probably the immigration officer in Lebanon, who kept flipping through my (rather stamped to the max.) passport "looking for Israeli stamps". He didn't found any, and then asked me "you visited Israel?" - funnily enough, you're apparently allowed to get into Lebanon even if you DO have Israeli stamps in your passport..
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Old Dec 10, 15, 8:56 pm
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Never encountered this sort of behaviour to be honest. Are you from a visible minority by any chance? Foreign-born?

Brotip: next time make sure you enter Oceania when it's pitch-dark in North America and let them have fun with voicemails to find out what you do back home.
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Old Dec 10, 15, 10:06 pm
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I'm not questioning your story, but for my own part (5 or 6 trips) I've always had neutral or pleasant interactions at AKL. There are only two that are even memorable:

On one occasion a quarantine officer scrutinized some raw wooden Christmas tree ornaments and called her colleague over - - - to admire how cute they were. "No problem, ma'am, have a good day."

On another, the immigration officer asked why I was visiting (for 3 days) and I launched into an enthusiastic description of my research project. He cut me off mid-sentence and waved me through.

While it's not odd for Australians to go to NZ for 3 days (lots of people go for a weekend break), it shouldn't be odd for people travelling between the US and Australia to take a short break in NZ either. So again, I'm not disputing your experience but I think it's not the norm.
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Old Dec 10, 15, 11:01 pm
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Arriving by sea into Turkmenistan. Forty degrees in the shade, no food, water or toilets and a nine hour process. I ended up going behind a train siding only to have a Kalashnikov waving solider who looked about 12 admonish me mid-stream. I didn't stop. And we had a guide to get us through "faster".
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Old Dec 10, 15, 11:21 pm
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Not counting the US, the only time I've had issues with a border force is at LHR.

I've had delays at AMM, PVG and PEK, due to visa on arrival/transit without visa paperwork, but I've never had the issues I've gotten at BOS, JFK and LHR anywhere I might have expected.

During my last trip, I entered the UK for 4 hours to put a checked bag into storage and then head to my next flight. Returning to collect the bag 24 hours later (after a LHR-DXB-LHR turn to use up all the sectors allowed on the ticket and rack up points), I end up getting questioned for around 10 minutes at the primary line before the agent suggests I have a forged passport and takes me to a roped off holding area while she does some "investigations".
After sitting there for a while, 2 other agents arrive and take me to the customs area for a full search of my carry on baggage, including my laptop. They found nothing that interested them, take a copy of my itinerary (which the primary agent never asked about) and bring me back to the holding area.
Another 10 mins or so later, the original agent comes back with my passport and paperwork and lets me go after claiming I was suspicious because no one would go to the UK for only ~5 hours twice with only a 3 hours stop at DXB in between.
Idiot. I've done just that 5 times in the last 5 years and I'm quite sure many others have done similar.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 12:27 am
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Originally Posted by redadeco View Post
Are you from a visible minority by any chance? Foreign-born?
Yes I am of visible minority (Asian) but US-born. All of the three young AKL border officers I mentioned in my OP are also of Asian origins. They are definitely not Maoris.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 4:36 am
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Originally Posted by Zapzig View Post
Yes I am of visible minority (Asian) but US-born. All of the three young AKL border officers I mentioned in my OP are also of Asian origins. They are definitely not Maoris.
Younger, female, minority immigration control types are often much harder on possibly co-ethnic/co-racial passengers than the older, male, majority ethnic group immigration control types when it comes to UK and Dutch border security types. The same kind of dynamic in place in New Zealand wouldn't surprise me.

But even when that dynamic is not in play, some countries are rather notorious in their paranoia and hostility about their own citizens, with Canadian and US border control types coming to mind.

AKL and SYD immigration have always treated me pretty well for the circumstances.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 7:27 am
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TLV inbound when it comes to incompetence. I know they know what they are doing, but it doesn't always seem like that. One time I was accused of "not knowing how to properly pack a bag" because the customs officer didn't like how two items next to each other in my carry on and made a big stink about it to me for about 15 or 20 minutes. Another time, the passport control officer "accidentally" issued me the wrong entry visa despite her confirming the reasons why I was here and for how long. A visit to the offices of the interior ministry in the city center fixed that - while taking up like 3 pages of my passport.

I personally have had nothing but positive experiences at TLV outbound, but I know that isn't the situation for everyone.

YYZ Transfer Customs B for poor service. I didn't have an issue myself, but the man right behind me got screamed at by the same officer for not filling out his declaration properly. We are talking about really loud, I could hear much of it. Similar to some people's experiences in the US.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 8:15 am
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Visa on arrival at MSQ (Minsk, Belarus) using my Irish passport. No real red flags there, but I'm a dual US/Irish national living and working in the US. Also not red flags, until your employment is a government job in the US. The officer was about to stamp the passport when he noticed my employer and starting asking questions about what the nature of the work it, etc. When I said "it's government job" his eyes widened and he said "GOOOOVVVVVERNMENT?!?!! You wait."

And so I did, for over an hour, while he made about seven telephone calls and leered at me through the glass window. There weren't any other passengers to help, so he was only dealing with me. Eventually he summoned me over, I got the visa, was told "be careful" and was sent on my way.

The Irish passport saved me a lot of euros vs the US one, though...
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Old Dec 11, 15, 2:23 pm
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Sorry for OT, but visa on arrival in Belarus? I'm not aware this is/was possible except during some past sport event, can't recall though which one it was?

I've entered NZ three times in the past two years and never had any issues, but I always held a visa so that'll be the reason. But I do know about a story from a girl I met a couple of months ago, and she experienced a similar scenario to the one of the OP - she was on a small ROW trip and had to present all sorts of documents. It's striking that she, like the OP, just wanted to get a visitor stamp on arrival. I suspect they are way more cautious about those kind of people, even when they shouldn't.

Apart from that I only travelled a bit outside of Europe so no bad experiences yet.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 2:30 pm
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Originally Posted by Brave New World View Post
Sorry for OT, but visa on arrival in Belarus? I'm not aware this is/was possible except during some past sport event, can't recall though which one it was?

I've entered NZ three times in the past two years and never had any issues, but I always held a visa so that'll be the reason. But I do know about a story from a girl I met a couple of months ago, and she experienced a similar scenario to the one of the OP - she was on a small ROW trip and had to present all sorts of documents. It's striking that she, like the OP, just wanted to get a visitor stamp on arrival. I suspect they are way more cautious about those kind of people, even when they shouldn't.

Apart from that I only travelled a bit outside of Europe so no bad experiences yet.
I'm not sure what the current policy is, but in 2012 and 2013 one could get one with a passport of a country which did not have their own embassy of Belarus. Belarus doesn't have an embassy in Dublin, so I was able to get a VoA.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 3:29 pm
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I've never had a really bad experience crossing any border, but the grumpiest border guards I've come across have been CBSA at Lacolle, QC when entering Canada by train. Very miserable both times we've crossed. US CBP at Rouses Point on our most recent return, by comparison, were almost in full-on party mode: even making jokes with passengers.
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Old Dec 11, 15, 8:19 pm
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Originally Posted by Zapzig View Post
my worst experiences with non-CBP border guards are those NZ border officers at AKL airport.
+1

AKL & YVR have been my nastiest experiences with immigration - ranked 1 & 2 respectively. The officers in these two airports are very CBP like and I always get the rough 3rd degree treatments from them whenever I enter through these two POEs.

OTOH, my entries through CHC, WLG, YUL, YEG, Peace Bridge, and Douglas have been uneventful. Lots of questionings? Yes, but nothing out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact on my last arrival into YUL, the officer even cracked a smile with me at the end and recommended a restaurant for me to try near my hotel after I satisfied all his questions.

Therefore I am curious as to what makes AKL & YVR such difficult POEs. They seem to be on a different level compared to other entry points in New Zealand and Canada judging from my encounters.
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Old Dec 12, 15, 5:41 pm
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Originally Posted by Himeno View Post
Not counting the US, the only time I've had issues with a border force is at LHR.

I've had delays at AMM, PVG and PEK, due to visa on arrival/transit without visa paperwork, but I've never had the issues I've gotten at BOS, JFK and LHR anywhere I might have expected.

During my last trip, I entered the UK for 4 hours to put a checked bag into storage and then head to my next flight. Returning to collect the bag 24 hours later (after a LHR-DXB-LHR turn to use up all the sectors allowed on the ticket and rack up points), I end up getting questioned for around 10 minutes at the primary line before the agent suggests I have a forged passport and takes me to a roped off holding area while she does some "investigations".
After sitting there for a while, 2 other agents arrive and take me to the customs area for a full search of my carry on baggage, including my laptop. They found nothing that interested them, take a copy of my itinerary (which the primary agent never asked about) and bring me back to the holding area.
Another 10 mins or so later, the original agent comes back with my passport and paperwork and lets me go after claiming I was suspicious because no one would go to the UK for only ~5 hours twice with only a 3 hours stop at DXB in between.
Idiot. I've done just that 5 times in the last 5 years and I'm quite sure many others have done similar.
They're trained to pick up on unusual patterns. What you describe is an unusual pattern. While your trip makes sense within the context of FFP gaming, it doesn't make sense within any context the majority of the public would be familiar with.

Ultimately they let you go pretty swiftly, so it's not like you were majorly inconvenienced.
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