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Odd questions by Immigration

Odd questions by Immigration

Old May 15, 07, 12:13 pm
  #1  
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Odd questions by Immigration

Coming into JFK recently, I made the mistake of choosing a line manned by the 'Grand Inquisitor' type of immigration officer. While all other lines were sailing through relatively quickly, "GI" took his time.

When finally my turn came up, he started off with the usual "How long were you gone?" and "what do you do for a living?" irritants.

But then he asked for the name of my company. "ABD", I replied. (the name is one letter off compared with a similar but much better known name) "ABC??", he asked loudly. "No, ABD", I replied. "And what is it you do again?!" he asked loudly. "We make sell widgets overseas" "Do you have any widgets in your bag?!" "No, they weigh around 4000 pounds." I replied.
Now, I'm tired and cranky from a 10-hour flight, so I can't help but roll eyes. Then he states "Well I've never heard of that company" and proceeds to stare at me. So I stare back for about 10 seconds. He then stamps me through.

How many companies are there in the US these days? Hundreds of thousands just counting the larger ones? Do immigration officers memorize the Wilshire 5000 index as a basis for their employment?

I can understand the length of travel question, since US immigration does not do exit stamps (although I fail to see what difference it makes), but isn't it enough to see my electronic profile come up time and time again each time they swipe the passport?
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Old May 15, 07, 12:57 pm
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Now, I'm tired and cranky from a 10-hour flight

Perhaps he was tired and cranky from a busy 8 hour day. I cut these guys as much slack as possible since they can make my day a lot longer than I want. For me, it just isn't worth the hassle.
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Old May 15, 07, 1:09 pm
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I suspect that it could also be the IO is just looking to see how you react to the questions rather than just the answers alone. IOW, its like going for some secret clearances for gov't work, you might be put on a polygraph machine and asked a lot of really weird questions. The persons asking them are less interested in what the answers are and more interested in how you react to the questions and that you answer truthfully.
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Old May 15, 07, 1:45 pm
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Originally Posted by hhoope01 View Post
I suspect that it could also be the IO is just looking to see how you react to the questions rather than just the answers alone. IOW, its like going for some secret clearances for gov't work, you might be put on a polygraph machine and asked a lot of really weird questions. The persons asking them are less interested in what the answers are and more interested in how you react to the questions and that you answer truthfully.
This is my understanding, as well. Being a foreign devil who comes fairly often to the US, I get a lot of questions like this. The information provided by my answers cannot really make much sense to them (working for non-household name company, meeting other non-household name companies); my reactions and behavior are very likely to be much more telling.

Cheers,
T.
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Old May 15, 07, 2:38 pm
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I understand the point of asking random questions. It's just that he appeared to be genuinely concerned that he was not familiar with my company name.
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Old May 15, 07, 2:43 pm
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Originally Posted by rbrenton88 View Post
I understand the point of asking random questions. It's just that he appeared to be genuinely concerned that he was not familiar with my company name.
Perhaps the guy was just disappointed he did not just meet a big-shot TV mogul...

Cheers,
T.
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Old May 15, 07, 2:54 pm
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Old May 15, 07, 3:30 pm
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Originally Posted by rbrenton88 View Post
"Well I've never heard of that company"
"Actually, you just did thirty seconds ago."
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Old May 15, 07, 4:14 pm
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Originally Posted by aktchi View Post
"Actually, you just did thirty seconds ago."
A good line like that never pops into my head quickly enough.
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Old May 15, 07, 5:12 pm
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A number of times I've told US Border Officials "I work for Company X" and they reply "How come I've never heard of it?"

I never really know how to answer that question in a respectful way. Usually I say "I not really sure."
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Old May 15, 07, 7:17 pm
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Originally Posted by gglave View Post
A number of times I've told US Border Officials "I work for Company X" and they reply "How come I've never heard of it?"

I never really know how to answer that question in a respectful way. Usually I say "I not really sure."
When asked who I work for, I always preface my answer with, "A small Australian software company called ...". That way there's no expectation that they will recognise the name.
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Old May 15, 07, 7:43 pm
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Clearing Immigration and Customs are times when you'd best keep the conversation bland. Definitely not the moment for "Did I think that or did I just say it out loud?"
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Old May 15, 07, 8:11 pm
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OTOH, I did work for a really big/known company and the conversation *always* went like this:

officer (looking at my H1B visa stamp): so you work for XYZ company? cool!
me: yep, really cool
officer: i have a friend/relative/neighbor who works/used to work/would like to work there too.
or
i've driven by the HQs building, it's really nice.
me: i see/i agree
officer: (in 1999 and 2000) wow, your stock price is really high.
or
(by end of 2000 and after) wow, your stock price is going lower and lower.
me: i see you are well informed.

Last edited by MariaSF; May 15, 07 at 8:12 pm Reason: typo
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Old May 15, 07, 8:19 pm
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I'm independently wealthy why would I work for someone?
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Old May 15, 07, 8:51 pm
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Being an Asian naturalized citizen, I've noticed this trend:

With a backpack and a roll-aboard, and speak English fluently, I rarely get harassed by customs. They only ask why I'm there and expect me to say 'visit parents'. Did you bring back any food? What kind of food? Ok have a nice day.

The Asian version of Ma and Pa Kettle, with 2 huge suitcases or cardboard boxes per person, plus 2 carry-on bags - now they always get sent for secondary screening post-customs. Maybe they failed to answer questions correctly.

Back when I traveled with my parents, no matter how we adhere to rules and answer correctly, albeit with accented English, it seems if you have too much luggage and aren't fluent, you get secondary bag searched!
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