5 Things NOT To Do At US Immigration & Customs

Today’s Blogger in the Spotlight is our buddy Earl, who writes about his nomadic adventures over at WanderingEarl dot com. Earl is a bit of a daredevil, and he tells this story about how he got stopped at the US Customs with a bullet in his pocket.. and if you want to read more about that and the conclusion of that story, you might want to check out his blog right after this riveting post on “What not to do, while you’re at the US Immigration and Customs”..


For those traveling to the United States as a visitor, and even for those returning home to the US after a trip overseas, it is a well-known fact that US Immigration and Customs inspections can quite often be an intimidating and intense process. This can especially be true if your passport is full of stamps from a variety of countries around the world. As a US citizen and a frequent traveler myself, I’ve certainly had a wide range of US Immigration experiences, everything from the shockingly negative (although I sort of deserved this one) to the enjoyably pleasant.

And now that I’ve passed through US Immigration over 50 times, I’ve begun to realize that I am actually in more control of how these experiences turn out than I may have previously thought. After paying attention to my interactions with the officers over the years, I’ve been able to put together a short list of things that, if I keep in mind while re-entering the United States, usually help lead to a smooth and quick processing. So if you don’t want to end up being interrogated in a small room or sent to a secondary inspection, you just may want to keep these simple tips in mind as well:  

photo credit slashfilm 

Do Not Get Upset When dealing with United States Customs and Immigration officers, you should always remain calm. If the officer raises his/her voice or begins to speak to you in a rough or rude manner, it is important that you don’t let this bother you and that you do not get frustrated. If you raise your voice or begin speaking rudely yourself, you can bet that the officer will get even angrier and nastier with you. Any anger you show might be seen as a sign that you have something to hide and so you can expect to be interrogated and searched much more thoroughly than if you always remain calm and polite.  

Do Not Lie There is always a chance that you’re going to be asked several or more questions about your travels, about your work and about your reasons for being in the United States. And again, if your passport is full of stamps, you can expect the questioning to be significantly more intense. While such questions might be annoying and intrusive, in most cases, you’ll need to provide some answers if you want to avoid further problems. And when doing so, you should never lie to these officers. If you have nothing to hide, then telling the truth is the only way you can ensure that your few minutes at Immigration and Customs does not turn into a disaster. If you are caught lying (even with a small lie), you can expect plenty of trouble, including denied entry for those who are not US citizens.  

Do Not Tell Long Stories Of course, you don’t need to provide a detailed story for every question that you are asked and actually, if you start talking too much, you may set yourself up for some other problems. Long answers simply lead to more questions and an increased chance of the officer discovering inconsistencies in your story. Keep your answers short and to the point and try your hardest to sound confident whenever speaking or replying to questions. Such confident, precise responses help eliminate any doubts that officers might have about your intentions as even a small amount of uncertainty in your voice may be perceived as suspicious.  

Do Not Go Through Immigration With Others Even if you are traveling with someone else, I’ve always found it much more beneficial to pass through Immigration on your own. The main reason is that if the officer is questioning two or more of you, there is a greater chance that certain aspects of your answers won’t match up perfectly. And this could result in further questioning and problems for the entire group. On the other hand, if you pass through Immigration alone, you only need to rely on your own answers and are in much greater control of your situation as a result.  

Do Not Dress Poorly It’s simple but it’s effective. During my earlier years of travel, when I would pass through US Immigration while wearing shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt, I was interrogated far more often and intensely than the times I’ve passed through wearing jeans, a button down shirt and closed-toe shoes. I know that many of us find it unnecessary to change our dressing habits for the US Government but the truth is, the better you look, the less suspicious you’ll appear to the officers.


Naturally, those are just a few ideas to help keep your US Immigration experience as hassle-free as possible. And while it’s a shame that the thought of passing through US Immigration and Customs leaves many of us travelers feeling uneasy and full of fear, I have no doubt that many of you have your own tips to share as well, tips that just may help us all suffer a little less. Please do leave any tips you might have in the comments below!


About this weeks Guestwriter:
“Addicted to the first-hand education that world travel provides, Earl writes about his nomadic adventures over at WanderingEarl.com. His posts focus not so much on the sights he visits, but on the human interactions and lessons he learns along the way. Earl also aims to demonstrate that a life of travel is not some crazy fantasy but a very realistic and rewarding lifestyle option instead.” Website: WanderingEarl  Twitter: @WanderingEarl


  1. Great tips!! Though I got nothing to hide, I always feel nervous whenever the immigration officer ask me questions.

  2. Wow so interesting… I didn’t know about better you dress will be easier. Maybe because I’m a girl. Lol

  3. That’s very interesting and great tips for those of us trying not to be intimated by thos officers :)

  4. Good tips. I always dress like a celebrity and I have never been stopped. Really. LMFAO!

  5. Curiously, sometimes the officers like to flirt with me.. must be my smile (or they are feeling bored)

  6. This is great advice. I find it especially challenging at times coming back from a trip overseas and then landing in the US. You go from being treated like a guest of honour in some countries to the polar opposite. As Earl mentioned, staying chilled out is really important.

  7. this is very informative!! thanks for sharing!! 😀

  8. One thing I don’t understand, why does passport full of stamps from worldwide made us suspicious? Won’t that prove that we’re just avid travelers and less likely intended to be illegal immigrants?

  9. @Fraulein: because they might think you’re a drug dealer or terrorist??

    I’ve met really pleasant and really nasty immigration officers. Something else you really shouldn’t do is try to be funny or too clever with your answers. They don’t like that :(

  10. Oh I like this! Another wise advise from Earl! Perhaps ‘do shave before Immigration’ would be suitable for this list too? :)

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