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How to Prepare for Immigration when Traveling

Tips on how to prepare for immigration when traveling

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<- – How to Prepare for Immigration Procedures when Traveling – ->

Hello Pam,

Your son just endured the nightmare of any traveler. But tell him not to worry, the immigration of Dublin is amongst the most difficult to pass through in the world. He had a good run in with the worst, now he can get down to the rest of the world.

I really hope that he was not discouraged by his experience of Irish immigration, and I just want to let him know that every other border that he will ever cross will be easier.

How to cross borders

The Dublin airport has been rapidly upping its role as a major transportation hub for travelers crossing between the eastern and western hemispheres, and, unfortunately, Ireland has adopted the strict immigration standards of their English neighbors. They also seem to delight in given problems to young American travelers in particular.

I have been getting a good deal of mail lately from Americans who have had difficulty passing through the Dublin airport. Tell you son that he is not alone.

From your letter, I think that your son has already learned a lot from this experience, and he has probably already heard most of the advice that I am going to give.

Tips on how to prepare for immigration when traveling

Always answer direct questions with direct answers. It does not matter if they are true or not, they just have to be unprovable by the official. It is my impression that they immigration goons are trained to be robots rather than humans: do not take it for granted that they will use regular human logic, they won’t. Not matter what, answer their questions simply and directly. Never say “I don’t know” or “I am not sure.” You are not dealing with normal humans who are able to sympathize with a traveler’s circumstances, but robots who are trained that any non-direct responses are warning signs. When crossing borders, it is usually best to pretend to be a robot as well.

Questions immigration officials often ask:

1. Where are you traveling to?

Answer by only saying that you are going to the most major tourist destination.

2. How long are you going to stay?

This is sometimes tricky if you want a longer visa, but try to get as much time as a normal visa will allow if you want it. So if it is common for a country to give out 90 day visas, say a couple months. But be sure not to say any time over a conventional tourist visa, because this may trigger suspicion.

3. Where are you going to stay?

This is usually just for the first city that you are going to, but be prepared to give this information for all the stops on your “itinerary.” All you have to answer here is that you are staying in “such and such” hotel and then give its address. It sometimes help to have a print out of a “reservation” for the hotel, but I have never been asked for one.

Also, it is always easier to answer this question with a hotel name. Even if you are staying with friends, it is far less complicated to act like a normal tourist and say that you are staying in a hotel. Also, don’t mention couchsurfing at borders, if this is where you are really staying, and never mention the name of your host.

The object is to act like a normal tourist who is going to do all of the things that a normal tourist is going to do and then leave the country.

4. Where are you traveling to next?

It is usually best to answer this question by saying “I have a ticket to “such and such a place” leaving on . . .  unless you are traveling in countries that may have certain political sensitivities to certain places. But it is an excellent idea to always say the exact time and place you plan on leaving the country from — even if it is not absolutely true. Just remember to always stick to your story if you are in a situation where you need to make one up.

5. How will you be traveling?

Always say that you will be traveling by public transport, even if you are going by other means.

6. Do you have an onward ticket?

If you don’t, you can print out false itineraries in advance from making an internet booking and getting the itinerary emailed to you or by making a flight reservation at a travel agency and having them print out the itinerary for a flight but never pay for the ticket.

Just make sure that you don’t tell them that you don’t have an onward ticket if they ask. Answer the question directly, even if you bullshit them a little, and always act as if you know what you are doing.

More tips on creating fake onward airline itineraries
Fake Onward Tticket
Onward Tickets for One Way Travelers
How to avoid onward ticket requirements

7. How much money do you have?

If you are taking a trans-continental flight, then you obviously have a little money. If you are flying into country whose immigration policies have a reputation for being stringently anal — Ireland and England — then make sure that you have a good wad of money in cash on your person — around $50 for each day that you are going to claim that you are staying. Do this especially if you do not have a confirmed onward flight. Debit and credit cards mean next to nothing in this circumstance. Traveler checks will work though. You can also make sure that you have a bank statement, as it may get you some points.

Make sure you do this if your final destination is England, Ireland, Canada, or the USA. I do not think that it matters too much for most other places in the world.

General advice

It absolutely essential that you answer all questions from an immigration official as normally as possible. You want to say that you are going to the exact same places and doing the exact same things as the previous 500 tourists who went through immigration before you. After you get stamped in to the country, it does not really matter where you actually go.

Crossing borders is a game.

It is my impression that immigration officials are on the hunt for any irregularity that they can find, so make sure that you seem as regular as possible. When crossing borders, you want to be like a zebra in the middle of a herd, and not a black sheep standing out in a flock. Because even if you have a good, honest story to explain your circumstances, saying that you are doing anything differently than a regular tourist is going to send off warning signals and, and this is the last thing that you want.

Think of immigration officials as computer programs that are not capable of making subjective or otherwise independent decisions outside of their programing. When working, they are not ordinary people with the usual capabilities of logic, as they are trained to identify certain signs as being suspicious, and these signs include anything out of the ordinary.

Also, be sure to never say anything more than you need to. Any additional information can just be used against you, so don’t try to have a conversation or be overly friendly. Just answer simple questions with simple answers. Try also to match the demeanor of the immigration stooge: if he smiles at you, smile back, if he frowns, then frown along with him, if he makes a joke, then laugh — but do not make any extra gestures of your own creation.

I hope this helps.

Tell your son to not be discouraged by being denied entry to Ireland. Just try a different port of entry into Europe — the incident in Ireland will not have any impact on him traveling to other European countries — or just choose another region of the world to travel in. Your son tried to go through the thickest airport immigration in the world for an American, tell him to keep his spirits up and to laugh this situation off to experience.

Tell him also to keep traveling!

More information:

Travel to UK/ Ireland after overstaying Schengen visa
Overstaying Visa in Europe
How to get travel visas

Thank for reading.

Walk Slow,


Original question about traveling to Ireland

Hello, Wade. My son was denied entry into Dublin, Ireland and was just returned back home to the US. He is a US citizen, and we were told he did not need a visa to travel to Ireland. The Irish immigration official gave him the reason that he was “unprepared.” My son was going to backpack, and he did not have a definite place lined up to stay, he did not have much cash but did have a rechargeable cash card whereby we could send him money in an emergency, and he probably mentioned that he was planning to travel also in UK and Amsterdam, plus he had a UK cell phone. All of these things, I found later, are things immigration does not like to hear. I have been told by some people that he will now always have a hard time getting into Europe, and others say he should just apply for a visitor’s visa and make sure he has a hostel or couch lined up for the first few days. You are doing just what my son was hoping he could learn to do, so can you tell me what is the best way for him to try his travel adventure again? Thank you, Pam

Filed under: Air Travel, Border Crossing, Travel Help, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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