If you’re a United States Citizen returning to the U.S. after extensive travel you may have some explaining to do.
I have been stopped by United States Customs on several occasions, at several entry points (Miami, Honolulu and Los Angeles), because I had too many stamps in my U.S. Passport. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the Immigration agents that gave me grief, but the Customs agents.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I respect the job which our U.S. Customs and Immigration officials have to do. But, like a lot of travel addicts, I’m proud of the stamps which I have acquired, through some hard earned traveling. However, U.S. Customs doesn’t seem to share my excitement.
On at least three occasions over the past decade, U.S. Customs felt the need to question me after looking through my old, fat, and disheveled passport. In each case the customs agent took my completed mandatory customs form, then asked to see my passport, first browsing nonchalantly, slowly flipping pages, then looking up at me, examining the stamps and Visas, looking up at me again, and then coming to the inevitable conclusion that something must be amiss — I must be doing something illegal to travel so much.
So, what followed was the inevitable inquisition: Why did I travel so much? What was I doing in xyz country? How was I able to travel so much? How could I afford to travel so much? What kind of work did I do? Who did I work for? Where did I live? Where was I going?
It was an exercise in self-discipline not to reply back with attitude, “I never knew it was illegal for a U.S. citizen to travel so much.” But, alas, years of experience have taught me to never, ever be less than deferential to Customs and Immigration agents.
I have done an extensive amount of traveling for three reasons: working as a crew member in the private yachting industry; working as a flight attendant on a private jet; and my own independent travel.
Try explaining that unconventional lifestyle to the officials!
In the post 9-11 world this is now even more of a problem. The best thing to do if you ever come across this situation—and you are innocent of any wrong doing—is to remain calm, cool, and collected! This applies even when they are going through your dirty laundry bag! Be very respectful and deferential to the officials.
Be very polite: Using “Sir” and “Ma'am” is a good way to show your respect. Be very honest about everything. They have seen and heard it all! After they are finished with their questioning, thank them and tell them how much you appreciate their work.
Perhaps, the next traveler will be better understood!
Written and contributed by Xplore724