Persona non grata at immigration? Can you get off the list

Written by admin on November 23, 2009 – 4:14 pm -

Even if you’re not a terrorist or anything akin to one, you too can spend extra time getting through customs. Ask as many times as you want, you’ll never be told what you might have done. You’re guilty until proven innocent.

I’m now pulled over each time I enter the U.S. So much for trying not to check luggage so I can beat the crowds clearing customs. I count on spending extra time being grilled in the secondary screening room. Sometimes it’s a matter of minutes. Other times, it’s substantially more. Who cares if I have a connecting flight. I’m captive to the point that I wonder whether or not I did something in a former life.

I’ve explained more times than I can remember that my passport was stolen in Nice France in September, 2000, and blurt out my mother’s maiden name before my inquisitor can ask for the information. Sometimes that does the trick. Other times it doesn’t and the interview is more extensive.

How does someone get off this list? During my most recent encounter, I was informed I couldn’t. Never? “Yupp,” the officer replied and waved me on. I only had 45 minutes to get from the international terminal to the domestic one and hit the departure gate with a only minute to spare. Talk about huffing and puffing.

This experience made me determined to take action. Being persona non grata, if only temporarily, is a pain in the neck. Well, i hope there is a way to get back into The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) good graces. It took numerous calls and more than three hours of listening to voice prompts and two days playing phone tag to locate someone who could tell me how.

A Consular Affairs Press Officer at the U.S. Department of State took mercy and said to fill out this form: The DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. Based on how many people are fielded to the secondary sanctum, this research may be useful.

After all, who needs or wants an immediate welcome interview each time you have to go through customs? No one. If you happen to be on the DHS hit list, do you know why you’re on such a list? I still don’t and suspect I never will. All I know is that I want off.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |