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Interrogation at LAX …. almost!

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  • Philondon

    I am British and live in London with my American partner. He’s currently working in LA for around 12 months. So I’ve had a few holidays out there plus an extended stay of 4 months. After the 1st couple of trips using an ESTA, I got a Tourist Visa which allows me 6 months in the US. But when arriving in LAX on the last 2 trips the border officers were quite aggressive with their questioning. On this current trip I actually thought I wouldn’t get into the country. He actually wanted to see my return plane ticket which was on the app on my phone. Although I have a US T Mobile SIM, I can’t top it up online as it only accepts US zip codes when entering the credit card details, so have to go into one of their stores. So I couldn’t show him my ticket.

    The weird thing is he didn’t actually stamp my passport. Not sure after all the interrogating he forgot or if it’s some weird tactic and my doorbell will ring soon (flying home today) and an immigration officer will arrest me!

    Anyone else have a US Tourist Visa and have similar problems?

    I’m thinking for my next trip of avoiding LAX and maybe flying into Las Vegas thinking they will be nicer as it’s a party city! Or maybe San Francisco or even San Diego. Anyone have any experience of those airports? Are they any nicer there?

    I still think, why would a British person with their own flat and job want to illegally overstay in the US particularly when we have the free NHS and don’t have mass shootings and generally a better standard of living?!

    Rui N.

    Rookie mistake to not have your return ticket printed out.
    Glad it worked out in the end.

    Philondon

    Do people have their return tickets printed? It has never been asked for on previous 4 trips since December 2021.

    BJ

    Didn’t they stop stamping passporrs last year?

    Richie

    They’re just doing their job.

    Richie

    Do people have their return tickets printed? It has never been asked for on previous 4 trips since December 2021.

    I’m always ready to show details they may need to see.

    Peter K

    A friend of mine was dating someone in California. About the 3rd or 4th visit in about 12 months they started questioning him vigorously, similar to you. Seems it’s a standard thing they do.

    BJ

    Always useful to have return ticket, hotel/accommodation confirmation, insurance, funds and itinerary to hand when crossing borders (excepting some where corruption is possible).

    meta

    You don’t need to print it out per se. Just screenshot it and show it as a photo. You don’t need internet for that. I also save PDF files in my files folder and carry a printed copy. It takes max 5 minutes before the trip to do all that.

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer

    Didn’t they stop stamping passporrs last year?

    Couple of weeks ago despite having GE my passport was stamped at JFK.

    You used to get a slip from the machine with the dates on and that’s it but the machines there have now gone paperless hence the need for a stamp!

    Philondon

    Didn’t they stop stamping passporrs last year?

    All my previous trips have been stamped.

    Rui N.

    Do people have their return tickets printed? It has never been asked for on previous 4 trips since December 2021.

    Printer or in any way accessible and not relying on Internet access.
    It’s a pretty common thing for when travelling abroad. For the US you might even be asked about having enough money to support yourself while you are there.

    Philondon

    I guess in future I’ll either print my return ticket or save it offline / screenprint on my phone.

    Jacob

    I’m thinking for my next trip of avoiding LAX and maybe flying into Las Vegas thinking they will be nicer as it’s a party city!

    Don’t bother if that’s the only reason. I flew to LAS a few months ago, and not only I was asked for a return ticket and tons of other questions, but also the immigration officer wanted to see my UK residency permit (I’m an EU citizen living in the UK). I had a really hard time convincing him there are no UK ID/residency cards. Luckily I had working data so was able to dig out 3 years old email confirming my settled status. I had no issues at LAX a few weeks ago and was straight through. It has nothing to do with the airport, but rather to who you bump into.

    Rui N.

    Two stories from when entering the US (I lived there for several years):
    1. Once an agent got pissed because his supervisor moved him from processing US to processing non-US people. I was the first in line after the shift. Asked me what illicit activities I was involved in, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the US as a student (which I was at the time). Eventually showed him the letter awarding me my scholarship and he let me in.
    2. My mother was always sent to secondary screening (where yes, she had always had to show proof of departure ticket). After the 3rd or 4th time one agent eventually told her the reason: she shares a last name with a mexican drug lord.

    can

    British. Married to an American. Lived in the City many years. But also Got detained at JFK once having a big mouth few years ago so missed my flight.

    At the end nothing happened. Got a refund from the airline. Went back to the exact same terminal the very next day. Took my flight in peace.

    Just to prevent your own stress and anxiety, cover your bases: a copy of your ticket and showing some credit cards suffice. They very well know showing a ticket means nothing — you can cancel it for full return perhaps.

    Once I was between jobs, flying to US with no return ticket. Questioned briefly. Told them I was not working. And didn’t bother with buying a ticket yet. He got annoyed yet stamped my passport. That was it.

    It is almost never about you: idiocities of them, having a bad day, having a finger shaken at their face by their bosses etc are usually the most likely explanations.

    Good old days. Got emotional now 🙂

    can

    And I truly think most of those officers are racist anyways.

    John

    And I truly think most of those officers are racist anyways.

    The worst ones are those who are the same race as you.

    Philondon

    I’m thinking for my next trip of avoiding LAX and maybe flying into Las Vegas thinking they will be nicer as it’s a party city!

    Don’t bother if that’s the only reason. I flew to LAS a few months ago, and not only I was asked for a return ticket and tons of other questions, but also the immigration officer wanted to see my UK residency permit (I’m an EU citizen living in the UK). I had a really hard time convincing him there are no UK ID/residency cards. Luckily I had working data so was able to dig out 3 years old email confirming my settled status. I had no issues at LAX a few weeks ago and was straight through. It has nothing to do with the airport, but rather to who you bump into.

    Interesting to know. Although if I did that we would probably have a few days in Vegas when I arrive.

    Rui N.

    I’d say that Vegas, if anything, is likely to be worst because of the kinds of people gambling attracts.

    Philondon

    Two stories from when entering the US (I lived there for several years):
    1. Once an agent got pissed because his supervisor moved him from processing US to processing non-US people. I was the first in line after the shift. Asked me what illicit activities I was involved in, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the US as a student (which I was at the time). Eventually showed him the letter awarding me my scholarship and he let me in.
    2. My mother was always sent to secondary screening (where yes, she had always had to show proof of departure ticket). After the 3rd or 4th time one agent eventually told her the reason: she shares a last name with a mexican drug lord.

    Wow that is unlucky for your mother!

    Aston100

    The arsehole at IAD wanted to know the sequence of monuments I was going to be visiting during my trip to DC.
    This was amongst a bunch of other stupid questions.
    I honestly think he was trying to provoke an angry reaction.

    Aston100

    Do UK border force get similarly aggressive or pedantic with tourists?
    Never really thought about this before.

    MichaelR

    Didn’t they stop stamping passporrs last year?

    All my previous trips have been stamped.

    Stamping is slowly being phased out. No stamps for me at either of my last two entries into the US (at SEA and at Vancouver Pacific Central Station Pre-clearance). Entries correctly recorded on digital I-94 (which you can download from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home):
    https://www.lewisrice.com/publications/going-digital-cbp-eliminates-passport-entry-stamps/

    Froggee

    Do UK border force get similarly aggressive or pedantic with tourists?
    Never really thought about this before.

    Yes – they can be downright hostile.

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