This is a message passing on some things I have learnt about UK immigration stamps in passports, and asking a question..
Last time I entered the UK from Europe I got held up at the border for three hours and questioned heavily (in a small windowless room) about my reasons for being here, how long I had been around Europe, etc. Not a pleasant experience. I come from a Commonwealth country, and over the 12 months prior to this entry I had spent around 5 months inside the UK, then had been moving extensively around Europe. This meant that, to UK border police, it looked like I was trying to stay semi-permanently in Europe without specific authorisation from any one country, even though this ought to be legal so long as I kept to all the rules, including the Schengen 90/180 rule.
The immigration officer told me that I was scrutinised more closely because one of my earlier three stamps was what he called a 'coded stamp'. On closer inspection of my passport, what he meant by 'coded stamp' was that in addition to the normal Port of Entry stamp I also had another with two handwritten parts, one specifying how long I was allowed to be staying in the country for ('six months') and one with a code (three letters, starting with an 'F', followed by four digits).
I was let in this time, but I got another coded stamp, again specifying 'six months' but this time starting with a 'G'. In addition was told that 'six months' in fact was recorded in the computer as some time much less than six months, and that if i stayed beyond this date, that was only communicated to me verbally, it would cause trouble in the future. (He told me that if they wrote the exact date on it I could lodge an appeal against it, which would take longer and effectively allow me to extend my stay. This would seem to be illegal, but as I am learning, non-nationals don't have many rights and are generally treated like dirt. It's lucky that I have white skin, because if it was different colour I imagine I would not have made it in.)
I relayed this story to a friend some time later, who told me that he was in a similar situation in the past, but the code he got started with a 'P' which apparently causes problems at other non-UK borders.
I am now outside of the UK, and I expect I will have difficulty trying to gain entry again, even though I have stuck to all the rules and left before the date specified. The two coded stamps did not cause any issues at my next Schengen entry point, but I wonder if anyone has any more information on these codes. It would seem that 'P' is quite a bad one to get. 'F' and 'G' perhaps specify different levels or types of concern?
And is it possible, as a non-UK national, to find out what details are recorded behind my specific codes, so I can learn what they have recorded about me, and what I need to defend myself against next time, if there is a next time?
Which of the 50 something Commonwealth countries do you come from?
The one next to yours ;-)
As my profile says, I'm a citizen of the UK (from England to be exact), but a permanent resident of Australia. I'm guessing you're not referring to the UK as there are no neighbouring countries within the Commonwealth of Nations.
The closest neighbouring Commonwealth country to Australia is PNG, and then there's a few other places not too far away either, such as Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand.
I asked the question about your country of origin as the Commonwealth of Nations is just an association of independent countries. It doesn't really make much difference when it comes to visiting other countries within the Commonwealth (unless there are individual agreement such as Australia/New Zealand have) as they're all independent countries all with the same status on a global basis (i.e. UK is no different to Uganda for example when it comes to status within the Commonwealth).
The only real difference when coming from a Commonwealth country and visiting the UK, is that you may be able to obtain a Working Holiday Visa (or there may even be the rather out-dated and increasingly irrelevant Ancestry Visa available to you). However as a tourist there's not much difference - and the country of origin may have an affect on how immigration look upon you at the border - not necessarily the colour of your skin as you suggest.
You may have not done anything illegal when it comes to your travels, however it could seem suspicious that you've spent 5 months in the UK, followed by 7 months within other countries of Europe, and then headed back to the UK. All this time travelling takes a lot of money, and there would be obvious questions in regards to how you are supporting yourself (which could lead to thoughts of illegal working).
One year of just travelling is a long time without working, and I'm not surprised by the extra amount of scrutiny you may be getting. Sorry I can't help with any codes there may or may not be on entry stamps!
I also had questions about not getting stamped...
Will they have any way of knowing how long you've been in the country upon leaving?
My buddy from Canada didn't have his working holiday maker UK visa stamped...he believes that he can use it in the future since there doesn't not seem to be a date specified, as it was never initially stamped to commence a duration time.
UK Immigration are now scanning every passport on entry (or they will be starting this year depending on entry point). I think from next year they're going to start scanning passports on exit as well.
Similar to the first post, my girlfriend was also held by UK immigration for 6 hours, each time getting a 'G' stamp allowing her to remain in the UK for 6 months but told to leave on her return flight ticket 3 weeks later otherwise she would be banned from entering the UK again. Maybe they don't have a stamp for that?!
She has never worked or overstayed illegally and would like to visit the UK again for 3 weeks but doesn't want to go through the same immigration problems.
Does anyone know what the 'G' stamp means?