The Best and Worst of Going Through Immigration (Part One)

by Brenna Holeman

Customs and Immigration 2

Flying Over Cuba

I’ve been through a lot of customs and immigration experiences. For the past year and a half living in London, for example, I go through customs and immigration about two or three times a month, depending on where I travel. As I travel on a Canadian passport, every single country – including my own – checks my passport and usually asks me a few questions (as opposed to anyone with an EU or UK passport, for example).

I’ve written about how to cope with customs and immigration before; I wrote that article a few weeks before I returned to Canada from nine months in Central and South America, and I was worried what kind of questions they’d ask. I always remember my dad telling my sister not to let Colombian officials stamp her passport… uh, it doesn’t work like that, dad. Anyway, in all the travelling I’ve done, and I’m sure, that you’ve done, there have been some harrowing, stressful, hilarious, and just downright weird experiences when crossing borders. While I completely appreciate what these officers do every day, and am thankful that they keep countries as safe as possible, the experiences can often make for some interesting stories. Here are just a few of mine.

Scene: Toronto Airport

Just arrived from: Copenhagen

I had just spent a couple of months abroad, visiting my then-boyfriend in Denmark. I was living in Toronto at the time, and landed at the Pearson airport after a very delayed flight. It was about 3am, and I was exhausted. Everything at the actual immigration desk seemed to be fine; the officer asked me the usual questions, and stamped my form accordingly. For whatever reason (I never know the reason) I was pulled to the side just before exiting. There was a queue of about five or six people, and only two officers searching everyone’s bags.

About half an hour later, it was my turn to be searched. The officer was a middle-aged man, and was acting extremely polite; he asked me what I was doing in Europe and where I had been.

“I spent the bulk of my time in Denmark, but I also flew to Greece for ten days with a short stopover in Berlin,” I told him. I would like to state here and now that I always tell the truth to immigration officers. I see no reason to lie.

“Are you sure about that?” he responded, carefully lifting all of my belongings out of my bag.

“Yes,” I replied, as he unzipped my toiletries bag and started to examine each article inside.

“You’re sure you didn’t go to Amsterdam?”

“No, not on this trip. I was there about six months ago, but I didn’t go on this trip.”

“Mmm-hmm,” he murmured, continuing to go through my stuff. “You definitely didn’t go to Amsterdam?”

“No, I didn’t,” I was getting annoyed now.

“So you didn’t go to Amsterdam… but were you a good girl?”

I had to do whatever I could to remain calm and not explode into rage.

“I don’t quite know what you mean, sir,” was all I could think to respond.

“Well,” he said, a little more deliberately this time, “Were you a good girl?”

At that exact moment, he happened to pick up a stack of my clothing and flip it over onto the table. Underneath that stack was a collection of very lacy, very intimate undergarments. The man blushed instantly.

“I still don’t know what you mean, sir, but I hadn’t seen my boyfriend in three months, so your guess is as good as mine. If you’re asking if I did anything illegal, then no, I did not.”

I know that this sounds made up, but I really did say that at 3:30 in the morning to a customs officer who then hastily stuffed all of my things back in my suitcase and let me go. I still don’t know why this man was being so sexist and weird toward me but I’m thankful that, for once in my life, I said the exact thing I wanted to say when I wanted to say it.


Scene: Toronto Airport

Arriving From: Mexico City

Just because I may as well continue this Canadian customs officer sexism that I’ve experienced, here’s another story about Pearson airport. I had just returned from visiting my sister in Mexico City, where she lived. I was wearing a new dress on the plane home – white, with big red flowers. I had bought it in a market and instantly fell in love with it. With a bit of a tan, I felt great. I strolled up to the immigration desk – I was the first one there.

“Well aren’t you a breath of fresh air!” the young officer exclaimed. “You look great, where did you just come from?”

I’m pretty sure I blushed and giggled. I mean, he was cute, and he was wearing a uniform. I caved.

“Gee, thanks… I just came from Mexico City.”

“Did you have fun?”

“Yeah, I had a great time!”

“That’s good to hear. Well, welcome back to Canada,” he smiled a big smile, handing my passport back to me.

“Wow,” I thought. “That was the easiest immigration experience I’ve ever had.” With an extra kick in my step, I grabbed my suitcase and headed toward the exit. And wouldn’t you know… Dreamy McDreamerson had actually stamped my immigration form so that I was searched and questioned thoroughly. I didn’t end up leaving the airport for another hour and a half. Moral of the story… don’t flirt. Or just don’t wear a cute dress, because apparently it arouses suspicion, or something. Who knows.


Scene: Winnipeg Airport

Arriving From: Cuba

Did you think that Toronto officers were the only creepy ones in Canada? Oh no, no no. Here’s my last story about creepy Canadian officers, because I like to think that they’re not all weird and slightly sexist. I arrived from Havana with my friend Rikki; we were on a flight filled with other holiday-goers. Rikki went right through, with no problems. The woman I spoke to, however, was much stricter.

“What were you doing in Cuba?” “What do you do for a living?” “Where do you live?” “How do you afford a holiday like this on a bartender’s salary?” And so on, and so on. In the end, she let me through… only for me to be pulled aside to have my suitcase searched, the only person chosen from the entire plane. At this point I just assume that it’s because I have a lot of stamps in my passport, and they’re suspicious, but I could be wrong.

I ended up with a young male officer. Again, he was pretty cute, but obviously I didn’t care – I just wanted to get out of there and meet up with Rikki, who was waiting for me. The officer had other plans, though. He went through everything, every last item and article of clothing. He even opened my journal and flipped through the pages. He also asked me a ton of questions about everything from my job experience to my family to what my favourite movie was. It was bizarre.

Finally, after helping me pack everything back in the suitcase, he asked which bar I worked at in the city.

“So, if I were to stop by on a Friday night… would you be working?” Okay, I’m really no expert at this, but what the fuck?! Was he asking me out? Had he been hitting on me all along? I mumbled a strange response – along the lines of “maybe” – and then got the hell out of there. In total he had “questioned” me for 45 minutes. I still don’t know what was going on, but thankfully I never saw him again.

Customs and Immigration 1

Scene: Canada/USA border

Arriving From: Windsor, Ontario

This one was just stupid on my part, and quite embarrassing to admit. I was dating an American at the time and we had just finished a massive road trip through America. We crossed into Canada from New Hampshire into Quebec and had a lovely couple of weeks in Quebec and Ontario; we were then set to drive across Ontario into Manitoba, from Toronto to Winnipeg specifically. It’s about a 26 hour drive if you head directly west through Canada, so we set the GPS for the shortest route and set out from Toronto. I should also mention that the car was packed; not only had we camped through America and so had all of our camping gear, I also had everything from Burning Man and stuff from living in Colorado for a couple of months. I also had gone a bit crazy at IKEA in Toronto, and so the car was full of dishes, photo frames, etc. At that time, there was no IKEA in Winnipeg, hence the shopping spree.

We headed down the highway, following our GPS. All of a sudden, a couple of hours later, my stomach dropped.

“Wait,” I said to my boyfriend. “Did that sign say Windsor??”

For those that know this part of Canada, you have probably figured out what was happening. Having set our GPS to go the fastest route to Winnipeg, we failed to take into account that it might redirect us under the Great Lakes instead of over them. That would mean going through America again, and having to cross the border.

We really had no choice; we figured we may as well venture forth and continue the route. Otherwise we would have had to turn around and retrace a few hours of driving and start all over again. We realised we could make it through Michigan in about eight hours and go through the border again, taking us back into Ontario. No problem, right?

We pulled up to the border and, to our surprise, the American officer was quite sympathetic and didn’t give us that hard of a time. He took a quick look in the backseat and then asked me to pop the trunk. Within ten seconds, he was back at my window, fuming.

“Would you mind stepping out of the vehicle and explaining something to me?” He was red in the face. I was freaking out.

“No problem,” I said, and got out of the car. I starting frantically racking my brain for anything weird that could possibly be in the trunk. When I met the officer at the back of the car, he was pointing at a plastic bag.

“Can you explain this?” he asked. It was a plastic bag that I had got in Thailand, and it held my jewellery. The bag was covered in Buddhist symbols, including, you guessed it, a swastika. For those who don’t know, the word swastika originates from the Sanskrit svastika, which means lucky or auspicious object. It is still a common symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism, but it has, of course, been forever stigmatised by the Nazi’s adoption of it. And… do you think I was able to explain all of this to the now extremely scary and extremely angry American officer who believed I was a neo-Nazi?

We were able to drive away after an incredibly awkward scolding by the man, who told us to dispose of the bag immediately.

For the record, when we had to cross back into Canada later that evening and explained our situation to the officer, she merely laughed and waved us through.


Scene: Johannesburg Airport

Arriving From: London

I had just flown ten hours to Johannesburg from London, and was pretty exhausted. I still had a short flight to Cape Town to go, but first had to go through South African customs. I queued up and waited for my turn to be called forward and finally, I was. A pretty young woman took my passport, scanned it, and then looked at me inquisitively.

“Where… where did you get your lipstick from?” Even when travelling, I wear very bright lipstick. Even still, I was totally taken aback.

“Um… it’s from Canada. Cover Girl. I don’t know if you can get it here…” I fumbled in my bag until finding it and handed it to her. She examined it closely, then handed it back.

“Welcome to South Africa,” she said.

That was that. Glorious.


Scene: Toronto Airport

Arriving From: Edinburgh

I had fully planned for this post to be about a variety of countries, not just (mainly) North America… but oh well. This is perhaps my favourite story about customs and immigration just because it is so ridiculous. I had just arrived from Edinburgh after calling it home for about eight months. I was nervous returning to Canada – I always am when I spend quite a bit of time away – and so was running over a list of possible questions the officer might ask me (I’ve been asked some weird things… see above). I was next in the queue when the officer went nuts on the guy he was questioning. From what I can surmise, the guy had lied to the officer, and the officer was definitely not happy about it. With a shaved head, lots of tattoos, and a very angry expression, the officer looked all kinds of intimidating.

“Do I look like the kind of man you lie to?” he said loudly, to the now terrified passenger.

Finally, it was my turn to be called forward. Having just witnessed the extent of his intimidation, I was even more nervous.

“Where did you arrive from?” he asked.

“Edinburgh, but I also visited a few other European countries in my time away.” I clutched my bags to me even tighter. The officer looked me up and down, his eyes stopping on my ukulele case.

“And did you fund your travels across Europe by playing the ukulele?” His face showed absolutely no signs of sarcasm.

“Uh… no…” I stammered out. He nodded, then handed my passport back to me. I was able to exit without being stopped again. That was it. That was the only question.


These are just a few of the stories I have from customs and immigration. What about you? Do you have any horror and/or funny stories? 


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Pete January 21, 2015 - 6:07 pm

Funny, wittily observant and well-written, as ever. I really enjoyed reading this Brenna.

Brenna Holeman January 21, 2015 - 7:01 pm

Aw, thanks Pete! I wrote it at the pub with a pint so I was worried it was a bit jumbled, ha ha.

KMunoz January 21, 2015 - 6:14 pm

Haha, I loved these. I’ve rarely had issues at immigration, but my most recent one was in (you guessed it!), Canada!

Brenna Holeman January 21, 2015 - 7:02 pm

Thanks! And what… the… HELL! What’s up with Canadian immigration?!

Nikita January 21, 2015 - 7:45 pm

Wow, I’ve never had any problems with Canadian customs officers! I guess being five feet tall, blonde and baby-faced helps… Though you don’t exactly look like a threat! It makes me sad for my country. But also, entertained. More of these, please!

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:24 pm

Yeah – I don’t think that I look intimidating/suspicious… but maybe they’re seeing something I’m not! I definitely have a few more stories up my sleeve for another post…

Melody January 21, 2015 - 8:13 pm

Living next to the border I cross over to America all the time. Folks here don’t think twice about going to a foreign country for dinner, shopping, a movie, buy cheap gas, etc. Plus, my sister lives in Michigan. It’s nothing to go over and come back a couple times a week, which means going through customs each way, every time. I have had my truck searched multiple times, searched by dogs, and x-rayed. The questioning has ranged from the basic “Citizenship?” and “Alcohol, tobacco, or firearms?” to “Where do you work?”, “Who owns the truck?”, “Who are you meeting up with?”, “Why on earth would you want to go to Kentucky?”, “Why aren’t you married?”, and then some even more personal questions. I love it when you get a guard that is in a really good mood and just jokes and flirts. I really don’t like it when you get the grouch or the one on a power trip. It’s hard to be pleasant when you’re growled at.
One time, I was headed to a big car show over in Michigan and I decided to take the ferry across the river rather than taking the bridge. When the guard asked me where I was headed, I told him that I was headed to the car show at Oakland University. He grilled me on why a girl would go to a car show on her own. Apparently I was not convincing enough and they pulled me in for inspection, searched the truck and found nothing.
I have been to Ukraine three times, never had a problem with customs on either end. Even on my last trip, when the airline stranded us in Russia and I had to buy a 24 hour transit visa, the customs agent didn’t ask me a single question.
I find that being friendly, open, and completely honest tends to make the process easier. That being said, there are times when the questioning gets frustrating. Officers-in-training are very frustrating to deal with. They ask a ton of questions, are very slow at processing your responses, and generally make everything more confusing.

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:25 pm

I agree – being friendly and open definitely helps! I’ve had some lovely chats with immigration officers (I’ll include these in the next post). Some of those questions you’ve had to answer though… wow! Sometimes it just seems downright rude…

Brett January 21, 2015 - 9:24 pm

I must agree with you! I’ve been to 19 countries and the only negative experiences I’ve ever had is going back into Canada after being abroad. Most of the time it is driving back from the usa. I’ve had my car stripped apart several times, had myself searched several times. At the Vancouver border crossing one time I even had my car stopped by the officials on a busy weekend in the middle of about 100 other cars and I heard the man say to his partner “alright, this is how you take apart a Cobalt and find anything hidden away”. Just my luck. I’m flying back home to Edmonton this weekend after being in South Africa and London the last 2 months…I’m expecting a myriad of questions. P.S. Always enjoy reading your blogs

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:26 pm

So strange, isn’t it? I hate to think that people arriving in Canada for the first time have that as their first experience. I can’t believe they actually stripped your car… that is just infuriating!

Thanks a lot for your comment, Brett, glad you’re enjoying the blog!

Elina January 21, 2015 - 9:42 pm

Reading this made me chuckle, hopefully there will be a part two since these stories were hilarious. I have luckily enough avoided nerve-wrecking situations at customs, however, I have had my luggage searched more times than one just because I always forget something in – ranging from swiss army knives to scissors, once even an old World War II bullet that I had got as a souvenir from my employer and then just put it in my bag without giving it a second thought, Yes, I felt extremely embarrassed. Who the hell has a bullet in their hand luggage?

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:27 pm

I definitely have enough stories for a second post! And don’t worry, I have also had bullets in my bag, although in my checked luggage. Well, they were actually shells – I shot guns in Latvia – but I’m still surprised they made it through!

Katie January 21, 2015 - 11:57 pm

Wow! The only trouble I have had has been crossing into and out of the States, including a very creepy and slightly psychotic border officer in Detroi who looked me up and down multiple times, asked me why I had been travelling for so long then told me about a trip he did once for a week somewhere in the Mid West then made me sit and wait for him to give me a form to fill in for 15 minutes, holding up the bus we were on. Power tripping – seems to be the common theme with the US Border Officials

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:29 pm

What a weird experience! I think that sometimes officers just want to chat to shake up their day… but I don’t blame them!

Ashley January 22, 2015 - 2:19 am

This was such an entertaining read! Canadian and American customs really are the worst, but I can’t say I’ve ever had an experience as strange as some of yours, ha.

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:28 pm

Thanks, Ashley! I hope you never have anything like these experiences…

Laura January 22, 2015 - 2:32 am

Love this, Brenna! Most of the weird and frustrating things that happen to me at customs are generally when entering my own country, too. What’s up with that??

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:28 pm

I have no idea! It’s so weird!!

Jacquie January 22, 2015 - 5:02 am

Awesome, Brenna! You have a really good memory!

I love going into Korea because they never have asked me anything!!! So far, which is about 4 times. I get nervous coming back into Canada all the time, and I always look for one of my friends who works border services at YVR! I always thought it’d be cool if I ended up in her line.

The funniest for me was when I was at Gatwick going through security and the guy was really grumpy looking, but as he handed back my passport he said in a super bored voice without a smile “Have a nice flight, Miss I Love Rock and Roll” (I love rock and roll was printed on my tshirt).

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:31 pm

Yeah I was almost never asked anything anywhere in Asia, including Japan where I lived. I love that last story – so funny!

Jayne January 22, 2015 - 6:45 am

Ok the last one is my favourite – “And did you fund your travels across Europe by playing the ukulele?”

I would have laughed but this might not have been the right response!

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:30 pm

I was just so shocked! It was only when I walked away that I realised how hilarious it was…

Megan January 22, 2015 - 10:58 am

after many years of traveling, the only issue i have ever had was going from the US into canada for work. i was either arriving at pearson or in winnipeg (i cant recall which!) when the customs officer scolded me for working up in canada as an american (i worked in sales) and told me that a canadian could do the job better and therefore they could work in their own market instead of sending me up there on frequent trips.

i dont think the officer realized that the company i worked for was partly canadian lol. she scolded me for so long that it was all i could do to hold back my laughter. had it been any other day, i probably would have fought back and been sent back stateside!

i had some weirdness crossing from georgia into armenia too (land border), but i believe i happened to be in a van full of drugs unknowingly. seems as though the border control was in on it, though, making it all a little more awkward!

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:32 pm

That’s so weird! I really don’t understand the line of questioning but there must be some theory behind it. And that crossing in Georgia sounds harrowing!

Julia January 22, 2015 - 3:50 pm

Haha I can definitely relate to crazy immigration situations! I have to say that in certain situations, I agree about being totally honest and sometimes flippantly so. The first time my American boyfriend came back to the UK with me to visit my family, he’d made some mistake on his entry form and the guy questioned him for ages and then came to find me patiently waiting outside the doors. He started questioning me too, to check that our stories added up. I was really tired, we’d just flown 14 hours from Asia and I knew my parents were waiting for us. He was saying to me “Your boyfriend better get on that return flight he’s booked or there’ll be trouble!” I looked at him, deadpan, and said: “I’m not being funny, but we just spent three months travelling around New Zealand and some of the sunniest places in Asia. My boyfriend comes from middle America where it’s about 90 degrees right now – do you really think he’d want to come and move to Manchester?!?” And with that, he turned around and went and stamped my boyfriend’s passport! Lol

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:34 pm

Ha ha! That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing this story here.

Ashley January 22, 2015 - 3:58 pm

These were fun to read, Brenna! I’ve never really had an issue with immigration, although I still get a ton of questions about traveling alone (I still look like I’m 16, haha). 🙂

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:34 pm

Thanks, Ashley! 🙂

Alyssa James January 22, 2015 - 6:46 pm

Ha! This was a great read. I’ve actually been watching a lot of Border Security and it made me really paranoid. But I landed in Morocco today expecting to be grilled about staying here for 6 weeks… They didn’t ask me ANYTHING. I’m pleased to say that I haven’t had any bad experiences (knock on wood) but I’ve watched so much of that TV program that I like to think I’m prepared for anything.

Brenna Holeman January 22, 2015 - 8:35 pm

Thanks, Alyssa! I had a weird experience in Morocco which I’ll share here at some point. Glad that your experience was easy, though!

p.s. that show is nuts!

Melody January 22, 2015 - 8:37 pm

I watch Border Security a lot too and it amazes me that I never had to go through more inspection going to/from Ukraine. All three trips were missions trips with a local church. We took hockey bags full of clothes, toys, toothbrushes, cases of vitamins, sports equipment, etc. None of us ever got searched.
I also amazes me to see how foolish some people are. Suitcases full of raw food, trying to work without the proper visa, and the whole drug trade.
As annoying as it is to deal with the Canadian Border Services, I am glad that they are working to keep my country safe.

Brenna Holeman January 23, 2015 - 12:28 am

Oh totally, and I should have put that in the article (I may edit it to say so). I understand exactly why these officers do what they do… even if it can be annoying!

Scarlett January 23, 2015 - 12:53 pm

This was a great post! I’m lucky in that I’ve only had two bad experiences with immigration (and they weren’t even really bad – having a British passport probably helps a lot with that…) Once when going through Heathrow security two security officers approached me and told me they were taking me for ‘random additional screening’ – I was so panicked as I’d never experienced anything like it before but thankfully they were quite polite! The other time was in Vietnam last year at the Saigon airport, when I was questioned relentlessly by the immigration officer, and they can be pretty intimidating, but really other than that I’ve found immigration to be generally polite and friendly, mostly just asking me about travelling alone.

(by the way, what did you mean when you said he stamped your immigration form and you had to have further questioning? Canadian immigration sounds more complicated than the UK!)

Brenna Holeman January 23, 2015 - 2:46 pm

Oh wow, some crazy stories! I never get asked about travelling on my own, which is weird I suppose.

In Canada you fill out a customs form which you hand to the immigration officer (along with your passport). He or she stamps it or writes something on it (always a code) and then you have to hand that to the customs officer on your way out of the baggage claim area. This is when I’ve been stopped and pulled aside… the codes must have said that I should be searched!

Andrea Anastasiou January 23, 2015 - 6:00 pm

I absolutely LOVE this post! What is up with Canadian immigration officers?!

One of the weirdest experiences I’ve had is at Dubai passport control. The guy was telling me that I looked tired and then asked me if I’d like him to give me a massage in order to make me feel better.

Creepy, much…?!

Brenna Holeman January 23, 2015 - 10:24 pm

Oh my GOD – so creepy!! What on earth did you say?!

Andrea Anastasiou January 24, 2015 - 4:18 pm

I think I smiled awkwardly, said “no, it’s okay, thanks” and shuffled away. SO creepy!!!

Camille January 23, 2015 - 10:45 pm

These stories are all so funny, especially since in the US there tends to be the stereotype that Canadian immigration and customs is a lot more relaxed than ours. My eyes have been opened! haha

Okay so my story goes something like this:

I have family that lives outside of London, so when I studied abroad in Madrid during my undergrad I first flew to the UK to spend some time with them. My flight was from Raleigh, NC to London. When I finally got up to the officer she asked the usual questions about where I was going and why I was going there, etc. Then she asked who I was staying with and when I told her my family she quickly replied “so you have family from the UK but you’ve never been here before?” I replied that “yes, we only recently discovered that we’re related.” I immediately realized how absurd this sounded and added “it’s a really really long story.” Then the part I’ll never forget happens, she says “I’ve got time” and gives me a cold stare. So I then preceded to explain how I had an uncle that married a British woman not long before being killed at Normandy during the war. The woman was pregnant and her child (my cousin) finally found his father’s family decades later, hence why I was just now visiting them. She continued to coldly stare, but stamped by passport!

You can’t make these things up.


Ruth January 25, 2015 - 12:37 am

I’ve really never had any trouble at immigration, and especially in the EU, I can sometimes bypass talking to a person at all and just use the passport machines! Border guards at Amsterdam airport are always great though! Friendly and almost always attractive! Last time I was there they pretended to take my photo because I looked like ‘Miss UK’ (apparently)!!!

Brenna Holeman January 26, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Yes I usually have no trouble in the EU or UK… most officers are extremely friendly!

Anna @ shenANNAgans January 26, 2015 - 5:32 am

What a fantastic post. I loved it! 🙂 Nothing crazy ever happened to me at customs, American took me and my friends to a small room to question us for around 1 & half hours, but the 25 hours without sleep kinda helped with me not getting worked up about the fact I had just missed my connecting flight to NY. Ah well, all part of travel huh?!

Brenna Holeman January 26, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Thanks, Anna! And yes, it’s true… all part of travelling…!

Zalie January 30, 2015 - 6:13 am

These stories are great! I had no idea you got hit on so many times when coming back into Canada…maybe that’s a sign that you should move back!!! 😉 p.s. I still can’t believe dad said that haha!

Brenna Holeman February 3, 2015 - 1:04 pm

Ha ha… I guess, if I want more creepy guys to hit on me! And yes, I still can’t believe dad has said many things. 😉

Kailey February 16, 2015 - 6:30 am

I loved this post! I ALWAYS have issues with American immigration (I’m American too). One time when I was coming home from being in Sydney for 10 months, the immigration officer ripped me apart. Asking me why I was only in Sydney and how much cash I had on me ($23… haha). And what part of Nevada I was born in… even though I was born in California. It was like he was trying to catch me in a lie. He was so rude!! He questioned me for a good 10 minutes. I wanted to say I’m American, you asshole. Let me come home haha

Brenna Holeman February 16, 2015 - 3:25 pm

It’s so weird, isn’t it? I always get so many questions from Canadian officers when all I want to do is get home and see my family!

Kumar April 24, 2016 - 5:50 am

This was interesting! Somehow weird immigration stories never cease to interest me — maybe it’s my indian passport and the accompanying circus of visas and weird questions or maybe it’s just me. Either way, here’s my favourite US CBP experience.

I’d landed at JFK to start my graduate study in NY. Arrival was at half past eleven on a Sat evening and I was not dead tired but still exhausted at the 19 hour journey from India. Stepping upto the CBP counter I was armed with a bandoleer of documents and papers to aid with the redoubtable US immigration process. The officer, a ginger-haired stereotype redneck (if there ever was one) looked at my passport for a good minute, then my student status forms for twice as long, squinted long and hard and finally drawled out — “Y’a ‘ere for an edoocation?” Given that my university forms and papers were all across his counter it was comical and I fought against the urge to reply “Indeed, my good man, and you look like you could do with one yourself”.

Instead, better sense prevailed, I did the whole submissive-immigrant routine and he stamped me through. It was just a minute or two before midnight and I sometimes wonder whether the next traveller would receive a different date stamp.


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