An interview with customs

Written by on March 9, 2010 in Blog, Europe, Travel, UK - 20 Comments

“Where are you going? How long are you here? Where are you staying? How do you know the person you are staying with? How did you meet? How long have you known each other? What does your friend do? What do you do? Where do you live?” The immigrations officer fired question after question at me.

I stood at the counter, silently praying she would stop asking questions and stamp my passport.

Fortunately, she did.

I had spent my entire flight across the Atlantic paranoid. When I went to check in online earlier in the day, I was informed I had to call the airline — that my trip was beyond the limit for travel and a visa was required.

My heart nearly jumped into my chest.

How could I have missed this? I thought I was good to go.

I spoke with an agent on the phone and she explained my ticket extended beyond the 90 days the UK allows without a visa, and if I wasn’t staying there that long, I needed to show proof.

Not a problem. I had printed out two boarding passes for Ryan Air to Ireland clearly showing I was not staying in London more than six days, and continuing after Ireland to Spain.

At ticketing at Dulles, I was again questioned. I explained what was going on and it seemed to work for them.

“Oh good,” I commented when the agent began to print my boarding pass. “I was really worried for a moment I wouldn’t be allowed to fly.”

“Yeah,” she began. “I’m still not sure you can.”

And, for a second time that day, my heart jumped into my throat.

But, I was quickly calmed once another agent came over and said they simply had to warn me there was a chance I would be turned around upon arriving in London since I did not have a visa.

After hugging and kissing (and a little bit of crying, I’m not going to lie), I said goodbye to my parents at security and headed to my gate.

The flight was packed and sleep was hard to come by, so of course, my mind began to wander to different scenarios upon my arrival in London. The worst of which was being turned around and sent home.

When I walked up to the agent at immigration I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be, but still a bit panicked.

As she began her interrogation, I could nearly picture myself being turned around and placed back on a plane to DC. Once I had the all-clear to enter the UK, I ran to grab my pack and called home to let them know I was accepted into the country and counting my lucky stars.

At least I know how to answer immigration questions like a pro.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

20 Comments on " An interview with customs "

  1. Aunt Vivien March 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm · Reply

    I am delighted with your postings and look forward to each new installment of your adventures and of your writing, which is so articulate. Your photos are so expressive; I know that Grandma would be proud. Thank you for providing this lively entertainment in my day. Love, Aunt Vivien

    • dtravelsround March 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much for the comment. It really means a lot to me. I’m glad you enjoy my site! Hopefully it will translate into something for my future. Love you.

  2. Aunt Vivien March 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm · Reply

    I am delighted with your postings and look forward to each new installment of your adventures and of your writing, which is so articulate. Your photos are so expressive; I know that Grandma would be proud. Thank you for providing this lively entertainment in my day. Love, Aunt Vivien

    • dtravelsround March 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm · Reply

      Thank you so much for the comment. It really means a lot to me. I’m glad you enjoy my site! Hopefully it will translate into something for my future. Love you.

  3. Joel March 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm · Reply

    Unless all of the research I’ve done is wrong, you (a visitor from the US) can only stay in Europe (countries covered under the Schengen treaty) for 90 days out of 180, so 30 days in Morocco isn’t enough. That’s the Schengen Visa rule (assuming you’re not getting a business or student or other special Visa).

    Fortunately, UK and Ireland aren’t part of the Schengen treaty so you could skip over there for a couple months as well. I’ve heard mixed results on people who stayed past their 90 days – most have no issues, but some get nailed with restrictions on returning again for several years (Greece appears to be particularly strict).

    If I’m wrong on this, please someone correct me, since working around Schengen Visa restrictions is driving much of my planning.

  4. Joel March 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm · Reply

    Unless all of the research I’ve done is wrong, you (a visitor from the US) can only stay in Europe (countries covered under the Schengen treaty) for 90 days out of 180, so 30 days in Morocco isn’t enough. That’s the Schengen Visa rule (assuming you’re not getting a business or student or other special Visa).

    Fortunately, UK and Ireland aren’t part of the Schengen treaty so you could skip over there for a couple months as well. I’ve heard mixed results on people who stayed past their 90 days – most have no issues, but some get nailed with restrictions on returning again for several years (Greece appears to be particularly strict).

    If I’m wrong on this, please someone correct me, since working around Schengen Visa restrictions is driving much of my planning.

    • dtravelsround March 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm · Reply

      Thanks for the info. Going to give US embassy a call tomorrow.

    • dtravelsround March 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm · Reply

      Thanks for the info. Going to give US embassy a call tomorrow.

  5. Chris - The Aussie Nomad March 10, 2010 at 7:15 am · Reply

    My initial 2-3 month trip around Europe was governed by the fact I could only spend 90 days there before having to move my ass out.

    So its holiday time in Europe before off to London on my 2 year work visa that I really really need to post off tomorrow.

    • dtravelsround March 10, 2010 at 7:57 am · Reply

      Yeah, just going to spread out the EU love a little and spend more time in Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, etc. 🙂

  6. Chris - The Aussie Nomad March 10, 2010 at 7:15 am · Reply

    My initial 2-3 month trip around Europe was governed by the fact I could only spend 90 days there before having to move my ass out.

    So its holiday time in Europe before off to London on my 2 year work visa that I really really need to post off tomorrow.

    • dtravelsround March 10, 2010 at 7:57 am · Reply

      Yeah, just going to spread out the EU love a little and spend more time in Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, etc. 🙂

  7. Gray March 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm · Reply

    I remember getting grilled like that when I landed in England. Everyone else on the plane sailed through with barely a glance except me. Me, they grilled for like 10 minutes. I started to wonder if they thought I was a member of the IRA or something. It makes you feel guilty, even though you haven’t done anything wrong.

  8. Gray March 13, 2010 at 8:08 pm · Reply

    I remember getting grilled like that when I landed in England. Everyone else on the plane sailed through with barely a glance except me. Me, they grilled for like 10 minutes. I started to wonder if they thought I was a member of the IRA or something. It makes you feel guilty, even though you haven’t done anything wrong.

  9. Stephen March 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm · Reply

    I had a very similar situation which I wrote a post about: http://bohemiantraveler.com/2010/04/why-does-the-u-k-hate-me/
    The U.K. is really tough on US citizens. I will never fly into Heathrow again.

    • The Adventures of D March 11, 2011 at 3:43 am · Reply

      Heathrow was quite possibly the worst (and most nerve-wracking) airport I have ever been to.

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