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what are immigration staff checking on their computers?

Travel Forums General Talk what are immigration staff checking on their computers?

1. Posted by pedro1960 (Budding Member 5 posts) 8y

I have travelled a lot, and have noticed that in many countries the airport immigration staff type in/check something on their computers when you arrive or leave. Does anybody know what they are doing, in most cases? Is it just to record the traveller's name for immigration purposes, or is it to check his or her name against a national or international list of undesirable persons/wanted criminals? I always get vaguely nervous at immigration, even though I always have my papers in order and am not a wanted criminal. I have heard that the US checks people coming in, and even on internal flights sometimes, against a list of names of undesirables which often doesn't include their passport number! So if you have a common name (as I do) you risk getting hauled off and detained! I'm all for catching terrorists of course, but if this trend continues, I can imagine all sorts of problems for innocent people with common names travelling around the world.

So, what are these immigration people checking in Asian and African countries (or elsewhere)?

2. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3711 posts) 8y

Interesting thread. Perhaps they are typing your nationality and possibly other information for statistical purposes?

I have heard of people with names the same as wanted terrorists being given a hard time when trying to enter countries -it's harsh for those people with similar names like you say. Seems a pretty basic way of doing things in this day and age.

3. Posted by TLWH (Travel Guru 516 posts) 8y

I developing countries they have a list of passport names and numbers from people managing the world DB on on terrorists, sex offenders etc. As well as their own list.

It's not perfect, but then it's easier and better than having a cavity search

In Taftan (pakistan) they have a row of web cams taking every one's photos. It's pretty funny to come into this crowded concrete shack, and then see all these cheap webcams staring at you! I have to admire it though for its cost effective methodology. Whether it works or not is another question

4. Posted by loubylou (Travel Guru 664 posts) 8y

I think (from my brief peeks at their computer screens from our side of the desk!) that Immigration officers record all your passport details.

If you have a scannable passport then it automatically transfers the info to their computer system. I would say they check whether you have been previously 'blacklisted' to enter the country (eg by overstaying a previous visa), how many times you have entered the country, how long you intend to stay (although in most countries you are never asked that!) and if you are 'wanted' by police anywhere else.

The webcams taking pictures of you are meant to automatically match your face against that of your passport picture (if the Immigration are hi-tech enough to have facial recognition software), if not your pic is just held next to your passport details on their computer system. Also with the advent of biometrics, it enables all countries to link their Immigration systems to a world-wide system....but that's a whole different discussion!

It is scary if you have a name similar to a wanted person...it happened to my dad about 23 years ago in Malta and I remember crying because they took my daddy away for 3 hours for questioning! After they realised their mistake he was free to go, but nowadays I don't think it would be this simple!

5. Posted by StephenJen (Respected Member 37 posts) 8y

I am residing in the Uk on an Ancestry Visa which means that i am able to work here for a set period of time however have no recourse to public funds and need to be able to be financially self sufficient. Each time i come through immigration, they ask me whether i have moved house, changed jobs, etc to ensure that they have up to date records on me and my movements. I guess as travel within the EU is quite easy - they want to make sure that they have up to date data in the event that i overstay my visa, or that my circumstances have not changed, (that could impact on my visa status).

They also generally quiz me a bit anyway as my passport got wet and looks nothing like me, so that always raises a few eyebrows....

6. Posted by meeg (Budding Member 44 posts) 8y

My mum passed through Thailand a couple of months ago for the 7th time. The immigration guy stared at the screen for ages then beckoned her over to show 10 years worth of photos taken at immigration checkpoints! Big brother is watching....:)

7. Posted by vanessa (Travel Guru 257 posts) 8y

Interesting issue!
I travel a lot as well. My documents are perfectly legal and I’m not “wanted” by Interpol.
I understand security needs, and accept they check up the passengers, but sometimes it's getting paranoid.
At my experience passport-control is going smoothly everywhere, so I never nervous and trying be patient and understanding – just let them do their job.
BUT…
The only bad experience I have had in two places in the world:
1) In Houston, US, where I passed (1/2 hr in airport for connection!) in the way back home from Central America. It was incredibly silly and could be even comic if not risk to miss my connection to New York (BTW, control in NY was standard and not bothering)
2) Believe me or not – the 2nd disgusting check up was in my home-airport, where neither my passport nor my origin supposed be “strange” or doubtful. It was not checking luggage but my “loyalty”. I have to admit that I never was asked more idiotic questions then here.

8. Posted by Swept Away (Travel Guru 1113 posts) 8y

I am wondering if they encoding our travel our records and that our governments have a record of our travel????

I MEAN When youl loose a passport, your government still has a record of all your travel... WHAT DO YOU THINK?

9. Posted by vanessa (Travel Guru 257 posts) 8y

to Swept Away
When youl loose a passport, your government still has a record of all your travel... WHAT DO YOU THINK?

i think they dont have a record of your travel = dont have info where you going, but probably save your leave and return dates (in computer) in your home-country.
Foreign countries, that you visited, definatelly save infor of forigners that income and left (or didnt) - at least for some time. Each country has limitation of time to stay there for forigners, and passport control in airport is part of this controlling.

10. Posted by Swept Away (Travel Guru 1113 posts) 8y

Quoting vanessa

to Swept Away
When youl loose a passport, your government still has a record of all your travel... WHAT DO YOU THINK?

i think they dont have a record of your travel = dont have info where you going, but probably save your leave and return dates (in computer) in your home-country.
Foreign countries, that you visited, definatelly save infor of forigners that income and left (or didnt) - at least for some time. Each country has limitation of time to stay there for forigners, and passport control in airport is part of this controlling.

So if I come home after two years and travelled, my government won't even know that I've been everywhere. If I loose my passport, I will loose all the information?

no records... at all... how sad.