Congratulations, British Immigration. You’ve Obviously Just Caught a Dangerous Criminal.

by Gigi Griffis

Dangerous criminal in the making. Obviously.

British Immigration, Eurostar Paris, Hour One

The stocky British immigration officer next to me was chewing out a tiny, timid Asian girl.

“Why did you lie to us?” the stern-faced officer shouted, leaning over the frightened girl.

The petite girl, who was clearly not a native English speaker stammered something about not lying or not knowing what she meant.

The angry British immigration officer continued: “When we first asked you why you were visiting, you said you were just visiting for no particular reason. Then we asked where you were staying and you said you were staying with a friend. When we asked you why you were here, why didn’t you say ‘to visit a friend’?”

I couldn’t hear the soft-spoken Asian girl’s reply, but I could feel her anxiety. The poor thing clearly hadn’t lied to anyone: she’d said her purpose in the country was tourism and then told them she was staying with a friend. Since when are tourism and seeing a friend mutually exclusive reasons for travel?

And yet there she was…stuck in customs and being treated like Al Qaeda.

Eventually, after a few more long minutes of lecturing, they let her through.

I watched her walk through, glad they’d stopped berating her publicly and jealous that I wasn’t allowed to leave myself. I’d been sitting on the same freezing cold bench for almost an hour waiting for the immigration officer (and my passport) to return. I was anxious, but even moreso I was cold and so was the poor, sweet dog, who was curled up quietly in her carrier shaking.

British Immigration, Eurostar Paris, Hour Two

“When did you arrive in Europe?” a pudgy agent with slicked-back hair was taking notes across the cold metal table.

“The day after Christmas.” I said.

“And when was your last trip to Europe before that?”

“Last summer.”

“So, in the past nine months, based on your passport, you’ve spent six in Europe.”

“That sounds about right.”

“Sounds like you’re trying to establish a base in Europe.”

“Actually, I’m just traveling.”

“No you’re not. You’re trying to establish a base.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I don’t understand the problem,” I said, apologetically and confusedly. “I’ve left every country or zone before the time on my tourist visa was up. I’ve never overstayed. I’ve never tried to move anywhere in Europe…I don’t understand the problem.”

“The problem is that you’re gaming the system.”

It was pointless to reason with her, so I eventually stopped. But the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me. Because I’d been meticulous about entering and exiting on time, I was now “gaming the system.” If I’d not been meticulous, I would have been flagged for breaking the law.

There was absolutely no way to win.

British Immigration, Eurostar Paris, Hour Three

I guess I didn’t really believe I was being detained until hour three. I just thought that, like with the little Asian girl who eventually made it through, they were being nit-pickingly thorough.

Because I wasn’t planning anything nefarious, I’d just assumed they’d let me through in the end. I assumed we’d clear up any concerns. I assumed “travels too much” wasn’t a good enough reason to deny someone entrance to your country.

But I assumed wrong.

I was back in the chairs-bolted-to-the-floor back room again and this time I wanted to vomit or cry (or possibly both at the same time). The glinty-eyed British immigration officer was asking deeply personal, prying questions about my health and my need for an ESA. Despite my utter politeness and cooperation, she’d stopped using reasonable language and started implying that I was a liar:

“You allege that you have $X dollars in the bank.”

“You allege that you have family in the states.”

“You allege that you have a permanent address in North Carolina.”

I’d answered every question politely and directly. I’d not complained once about the freezing cold bench or the three-hour delay. I have no criminal record or history of overstaying my visas. And yet I was assumed to be a liar.

And I was totally helpless to do anything about it.

I couldn’t help but wonder about this process. Does it really take hours to decide whether I can enter your country? Is it really okay for agents to assume we’re all lying without any shred of evidence? And if there’s no real evidence against me, can’t they at least let me sit in a warm room and have a glass of water while I wait?

British Immigration, Eurostar Paris, Hour Four

I was ushered in the scary little back room one last time. This time, I was told that I am not allowed into the UK. The thin evidence supporting this choice was that: A) I’d been traveling too long/don’t have a permanent address in the states, B) I had mentioned I was going to watch a friend’s dog and that is “work,” and C) she believed I was lying about the money I had in the bank.

A smile—no, a smirk—played on her face as she told me I was not coming through.

And that was, honestly, the worst part of the whole day. Even after three and a half hours of patience and politeness, of answering every question, of freezing half to death and never complaining…that horrible, power-drunk British immigration officer was smirking at me. She was happy—thrilled even—to be ruining my trip.

So, there I was. Shocked. Overwhelmed. Crying. Fighting off a panic attack. Being smirked at. And then they stood me up, marched me to a low table and fingerprinted me like a criminal.

When I finally composed myself, I asked when I could try to re-enter. Was this trip totally out-of-the-question, I asked, or if I came back tomorrow with proof of funds, a cancellation email to my friend whose dog I was watching, etc., would I be able to come in?

The smirking officer was, as you may have guessed, completely unhelpful.

“I can’t tell you what will happen tomorrow,” she said.

I tried to ask the question a different way: “I’m asking you if, based on your knowledge of UK immigration and customs procedures, it’s going to make any difference if I fix the reasons you’ve outlined for not letting me in?”

“Can’t you just go home?” she asked sharply.

Dear British Immigration Office: this is a ridiculous question.

Of course I can go home. I can go home and forfeit two weeks worth of rent. I can go home and forfeit the opportunity to go to a really important business conference. I can go home and forfeit the costs of train tickets, change fees, and re-made plans.

Is it so hard to understand that people who have spent hard-earned money on a trip to your country would want to use the hotels or tours or trains they’ve paid for?

The Moral of the Horror Story

I eventually did make it into the UK…after printing out confirmations of my “alleged” funds, changing my plane ticket to leave just after my conference, and taking an early morning train to Calais to catch the ferry instead of chancing another run-in with the smirking Eurostar immigration officer.

Instead of the normal stamp, which allows American passport holders to stay in the UK up to six months, I was stamped in for two weeks—just long enough to attend my business conference.

The smirky agent told me that my passport is now in the system for 5 – 10 years and I’m going to get flagged every time I try to enter. She also said I could try again another time.

To her I pose this question now:

Why the [insert chosen expletive here] would I?

Why would any person spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours on accommodations, transportation, planning, and other advance payments knowing that it’s possible—and not just possible, but likely—that they’ll be detained for hours, treated like a criminal, called a liar, and possibly ultimately forced to lose all of those deposits and get right back on that plane?

No thank you.

So, congratulations, immigration office. You’ve just put off this terribly dangerous criminal mastermind with her tiny dog, growing travel blog following, and ethical business.

Excellent work.

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Felicity April 11, 2013 - 8:49 am

Man, this sounds like a nightmare, but British immigration really can be horrible.

My brothers girlfriend (a kiwi and therefore allowed several years working visa in the UK), didnt fill her application in right the first time to enter the country, now she is banned from entering the UK for 5 years (apparently shes at risk of overstaying!) I also know another man (also kiwi) who was entering the UK to marry his british bride. When entering, the customs officer asked his purpose of visiting, and instead of just saying ‘holiday’, he was so excited and naturally a friendly bloke, that he told him happily ‘to get married’ not knowing of a very old and obscure form one must fill out (thats never usually inforced) if you are wanting to enter the country to marry. He was sent on a plane back to New Zealand straight away.

I honestly dont understand them…and im moving to London in 2 weeks…eek

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 9:16 am

Yikes – that’s so sad for your banned friend! I guess I knew British Immigration was strict, but didn’t realize how completely unreasonable they are until now.

Rebeca April 11, 2013 - 8:55 am

What (insert chosen explicitive). What a bunch of bull and mularki. I am so sorry that you were treated so harshly. I certainly do not blame you for never wanting to return to the UK. Yup you look like a criminal mastermind based on the above picture lol.
I wonder how long the other poor Asian lady was detained before you got there.
Wow your passport will really be in the system for the next 5-10 years and flagged for that long even after submitting proof. That is just not cool. On the upside France seems really nice.

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 9:13 am

Totally. And you’re right – I’m lucky I got stuck in France, since the people there were so lovely to me. :) Luckily, now I’m sitting on a beach about to enjoy two days of real vacation…so I think the universe has balanced itself out a bit.

Lisa, a.k.a. The Bold Soul April 11, 2013 - 9:34 am

Wow, and I thought US immigration could be tough. I co-authored a memoir for a German woman who, back in the 80s in the pre-terrorism era, got caught by INS when trying to re-enter the US after a trip back to Germany. She had overstayed her tourist visa by… 2 years. She spent 3 days in immigration jail and spent the nights sleeping in a hotel room (because the jail was overcrowded) HANDCUFFED TO A FEMALE INS OFFICER (yeah, I’m sure the officer wasn’t crazy about this arrangement either). Finally, she opted to “voluntarily” go back to Germany instead of being officially deported, which meant she could re-enter after 1 year (the rules have probably gotten even more strict since then). In that year, she and her boyfriend worked out how to get her back to stay in the US permanently, and it meant them getting married within 3 months of her return a year later. So that’s what happened. And she’s still living in San Francisco. (By the way if anyone’s interested, the book is “To Drink the Wild Air” by Birgit Soyka. This is only one small chapter in her very interesting story.)

I mention all this just to say that YOUR story? Sounds even worse to me in terms of how you were treated overall. I’m going to England in May for 5 days of vacation and already thinking what documents should I bring to PROVE that I live here in France legally, in case they give me a hard time. I have applied for French nationality but haven’t received it yet, so still traveling on my US passport.

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 9:40 am

Wow…sleeping handcuffed to an INS officer sounds like a nightmare of a whole other caliber. If I never see my Immigration lady ever again, it’ll still be too soon.

Definitely bring as many documents as you can think of. And, honestly, choose a male Immigration Officer. I’ve noticed overall that the ladies seem to think they have something to prove, so they’re bigger jerks. Sad, but seems to be how it is.

David February 11, 2017 - 2:52 pm

I got rejected at the Paris Eurostar entry back to the uk in 2011 because I said the wrong thing, I stupidly thought I was having a friendly conversation with the customs lady. I was on a short holiday from Australia and was flying home from Heathrow the next day. I had young children to get home too. I didn’t realise I was talking to an evil monster. I got that same smirk when she realised she’d got me, it’s the face of evil that I’ve never erased from my mind. It and the little cross stamped in my passport caused no end of trouble and grief, let alone the scary night I had in Paris in peak season with nowhere to sleep. i got detained again because of that stamp the next time I went to china (I got through eventually). I now have a new passport and am meant to go back to the uk this year but I’m very nervous about it. any advice anyone?

gigigriffis February 12, 2017 - 1:26 am

So sorry to hear it! I don’t have any advice about going back, as I’ve gone out of my way to never pass through again.

Rob April 11, 2013 - 9:36 am

Every time I hear something like this I remember that the best of the UK left the country to colonize Canada and the USA. The ones that were left were the weak and cowardly. I suppose their descendants haven’t improved much.

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 9:44 am

Aw. I don’t know about that. I did meet some lovely people who live in the UK (including my wonderful roommates – more on them later). It seems to be the Immigration officers that are the problem, not necessarily the locals. And don’t forget that US Immigration folks have our own horrifying reputation (see German lady’s story in the comments – yikes).

Rob April 11, 2013 - 10:06 am

Don’t ruin my narrow prejudgement of Brits! I like my broad brush. :)

My problem with this sort of thing is that there’s no need for the immigration people at any border to behave like asses. Ask your questions, make your evaluation, but don’t revel in making people upset. That’s just being mean.

Mike Charalambous May 15, 2013 - 9:14 pm

Your comment, Rob, which I can’t actually reply to – is shocking. You have no place on a great blog like this.

Brandi April 11, 2013 - 10:19 am

I don’t condone what happened to you but the fact if the matter is if you are working in projects while in the UK that you will be paid for you are breaking the law.. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but it is the truth.

British border agents are a bit asshole-y, but the honestly thought you weren’t a real tourist.

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 2:53 pm

Hi Brandi,

I wasn’t being paid for the petsitting gig they had a problem with. They knew I was a writer and was being paid by my clients through my company in the states and didn’t have a problem with that (the law is there to make sure people don’t take jobs from locals, not so that you don’t do any work for your foreign company), so I wasn’t actually breaking any laws.

Ali April 11, 2013 - 10:21 am

Andy told me some of this from when he was talking to you on Skype, sounds horrifying! I understand they don’t want people to “game the system” but if you’re clearly following the rules, I don’t see the problem. I can’t imagine having things planned and paid for and having some wacky immigration officer tell me I can’t come in because I travel too much! Obviously if you’ve been traveling, you have money to pay for it. And plenty of people come to Europe to travel around for an extended period of time. Stuff like this makes me so angry. And to flag your passport for 5-10 years? Yikes.

Worst thing I’ve ever dealt with was last year after living in Germany for 3 months and traveling around the world for 4 months, I landed in LAX in route to visit friends in Seattle, starting a month of US travel before returning to Germany. I just put “Renton, Washington” in the field for where I was going to be staying because I didn’t know my friend’s address. The lady got irritated that I didn’t put a full address, asked me where I live (even though it said Germany on the form) and then yelled at me for not putting the whole address because I “don’t live here anymore.” Um, sure but I’m a US citizen and I had every right to be in the country. She made me get out of line and find the address, which I guess wasn’t a big deal, but annoying.

I hope you have better luck with immigration in the future. And I’m sure your future plans won’t include the UK for a very long time. Such a shame.

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 2:56 pm

Ugh. That sucks. And it’s not like those checks and balances help anything. Someone could just lie about their address if they wanted to.

And, yeah, definitely not going back to the UK if I can help it.

Karen Lagerberg April 11, 2013 - 10:43 am

In 2002 my husband and I went to Sweden to pick up a Volvo that we had purchased and intended to drive over Europe to see the sites. We also took the ferry from Calais to England. We purchased a temporary license plate (good for a year), and had our passports from the US. When we got to the line to enter, the immigration service was pulling over cars and going thru them like drug agents in San Diego looking for drug dealers! We got the 3rd degree and they were quite confused as to why we had Swedish plates and US passports! What a deal. At least they didn’t look thru the car like the poor Arab looking folks pulled over. I never plan on visiting England again. Too much trouble and they are too rude.

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 3:06 pm

Ugh. Sorry you had to deal with them too.

Pops July 8, 2014 - 5:14 am

I’m British,was born and raised here,but father is African,mother is English.
I travel quite a lot,have a very strong regional English dialect,and mostly,even with my kids in tow,I get the same shitty treatment that you’ve been subjected to for the last 30 years or so.
Nowadays,I tell them to fuck off,and don’t tell them anything because I’m sick of their shitty attitudes,and want to go home cos I’m tired of getting profiled everytime I come home.
Of course,I have a British passport,so they can’t chuck me out,but they really get upset that I don’t swallow and take their whipping like a good boy.
100 years ago,no-one had passports.What the hell happened here?

Rob April 12, 2013 - 7:26 am

Anything out of the ordinary bothers border people. I had forgotten, until this discussion, the time back in the 80s when I was flying from Stockholm to Los Angeles. The US passport person insisted that because I *lived* in Sweden I needed a visa to enter the USA, even though I was carrying a Canadian passport. It took a supervisor to straighten her out.

Kristin April 11, 2013 - 11:49 am

Ugh, that sounds like such an awful experience! It’s terrible what a power trip immigration agents are on, especially those in the UK. I’m currently in the UK for 5 months to spend time with my grandparents, who are 91 and have been unwell, yet when I first arrived here in February, I got the 3rd degree about why I was visiting. Granted, I only got questioned for 5 minutes instead of 4 hours, but they questioned things I thought were pretty obvious, like “why are you visiting your grandparents?” (Err, they’re my grandparents?) She also didn’t seem to believe me about the money I had in the bank, and made me show her all plane tickets that I had booked during my stay (even though I’d already proved I had a ticket back to Australia in July, well before my 6 months would run out).

Like you say, this was a female immigration officer.

The next time I entered the country, I had all of my savings accounts, plane tickets, proof of employment circumstances that they didn’t believe, all printed out. The male immigration officer asked me how old my grandparents were and whether they were British and then smiled and sent me on my way.

I’m a bit concerned now since I plan on coming back in on the Eurostar in June. Maybe I’ll print out photos of me with my grandparents near obvious British landmarks just in case!

Anyway, so sorry to hear this happened with you, and I completely don’t blame you for not wanting to book a trip here again!

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 3:10 pm

Haha – your comment on printing out photos near British landmarks made me laugh. Sorry they gave you the third degree for visiting your grandparents. It’s crazy how many stories like this there are out there. And sad. I guess they figure if they barely let anyone in they’ll cut back on illegal immigration by default (even if they kill tourism in the process).

Brandi April 11, 2013 - 4:38 pm


I’m only on my phone at the moment, but if you search the UKY website you can find people banned for writing or telecommuting and being in the UK on tourist visas. You can’t even volunteer on tourist visas! They are really meant for you to come for a short time, have a looksie, and go home. I know someone who was banned from the UK got ten years for babysitting a friends kid for a few hours.

I don’t agree that any immigration officer should make you cry, but you should always being prod of being able to support yourself when you travel and want tourist visas.. No country, other then the one you have passport from, has to let you in..

gigigriffis April 11, 2013 - 7:09 pm

Thanks for the info, Brandi. I know now that they consider babysitting and petsitting (even without pay) to be work; I just didn’t know then. And I definitely didn’t need to be treated like garbage because of an honest mistake. Plus, it’s mind-blowing that traveling too much was one of their reasons stated in the official letter they gave me. It’s wild that traveling in other countries made them think I wanted to move to theirs. :(

Brandi April 12, 2013 - 12:10 am


The UK thinks everyone who visits wants to live there.. If you need to go to the UK again, I would do it via Ireland add they are both in the common travel area. No nasty UK immigration officers then!

gigigriffis April 12, 2013 - 9:39 am

Thanks, Brandi. If I do have to come back for some reason, I’ll keep that in mind.

Sara June 25, 2018 - 7:32 pm

I wouldn’t suggest going through the republic to get to the UK. I was recently denied entry there for no reason when I was just going to be visiting for a couple months at my boyfriends and his family’s home. They were going to support me until I had to leave and they said they were sending me home because of lack of funds. I didn’t need much funds because I was going to be staying with them and they were going to be making my meals for me. And they were so rude. I suggest never going through immigration with a female immigration officer. She was lucky I didn’t punch her in her mouth

Neens April 12, 2013 - 7:17 am

When I moved to the UK about a decade ago, I flew from Norway to Heathrow. I stopped in the customs room, which was completely empty, because I figured surely someone would want to talk to me; I was moving here and had flown in with a one-way ticket, after all. Eventually a man came in and said “hi, where are you from?”. I answered “Norway” and showed him the front of my passport. He said “You just want to get the hell out of here, don’t you?”. I answered “Err… yes?”. And he pointed and said “The door is there. Have a good day!”. And that was it.

On the other hand, my friend who comes from a former Russian state is stopped at every airport. She was once turned away from Dublin; they threatened to deport her to her homeland even though she could prove that she lived in the UK, was married in the UK, owned a house in the UK, ran a business in the UK and also studied in the UK.

Sometimes I wonder if it all just boils down to the immigration officer’s preconceived ideas about the country your passport was issued in. So it’s a shame that you had to come across a power-crazed, anti-American, PMS-ing beeeyatch… If you’ll pardon my French. ;o)

gigigriffis April 12, 2013 - 9:59 am

Interesting! It’s actually nice to hear one nice story in the bunch. And perhaps you’re right. Perhaps she has a thing against Americans, or young women, or people who get to travel more than she does. Thanks for the support.

Suzanne Fluhr April 12, 2013 - 9:26 am

My son was pulled out of line re-entering the US from a two week trip to Panama. He’s a US citizen (travel blogger) and resident. He thinks it was a random stop. He said a light came on when it was his turn to approach the officer. Does anyone know if they do more extensive interviews on a random basis no matter whose turn it is?

gigigriffis April 12, 2013 - 9:53 am

Hmmm, interesting question. I have no idea.

Brad April 12, 2013 - 10:46 am

I know That I’m dating myself with this comment, but it “Alice’s Restaurant” 2.0. The one item you were lacking in your defense was the “27 8×10’s with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one.” I guess the British are getting tired of its “guest workers” mining the system, so they turn their field officers on unsuspecting folks and intimidate them from coming into the country, legitimate reasons or no. If the situation weren’t so pathetic it would make for a great Monty Python skit.

gigigriffis April 13, 2013 - 9:49 am

Pathetic situations do sometimes make for funny satires.

Gary April 12, 2013 - 10:59 pm

Gigi… I am absolutely sick to the core thinking of the trauma. I am also devastated that some pumped up official can give the UK such a bad name…sorry. I was harbouring a similar feeling about the US immigration when they stopped me coming across from Canada some years back so I guess there are self important numbskulls in all countries. You ordeal is amazing though considering there were no language barriers to overcome…sorry it happened to you and that it has blighted what can be a great country to visit…:(

Gigi April 13, 2013 - 9:26 am

Thanks for the support, Gary. I totally agree. It’s so sad that whether you get treated like a human being or not depends on who your immigration officer is.

Brief Roommate April 13, 2013 - 1:29 am

Ugggghhhh. Flagged for 5-10 years because of their completely speculative assessment of your circumstances?!?! No doubt that any immigration officer has the *authority* to turn anyone away, but it seems ridiculous that the burden of proof should be on the traveler to show that they are *not* a criminal versus on the institution to demonstrate that they are. Fine, they need a bank statement before they’re comfortable letting you in, so they should tell you sorry for the inconvenience, please go get a bank statement and try again tomorrow, not hold you in a cell for four fucking hours. I’ve no clue why customs is a profession in which it is permissible to degrade and yell at strangers – I realize many countries take immigration seriously and are following a mandate to maintain rigorous border control, but that doesn’t change the fact that travelers are your clients, the very vast majority are doing exactly what they say they’re doing with perfectly innocuous intentions, and your job as a customs officer is to politely and professionally process them through your system, even if you are obliged to refuse entry to some of them.

I’ve never dealt with someone so heinous, though I did have a rather grumpy official in the UK who didn’t like me and Eric because we had (stupidly) not checked his dad’s address before we arrived in London for a visit and had put down “London Bridge” as our intended place of residence while we were there. He was not amused and was doubly grumpy about the phone number we used for Eric’s dad, which was an internet-based Vonage line versus a local landline with a recognizable number. I also once had a Canadian customs official gesture impatiently for me to elaborate when he asked what my relationship was to my traveling companion and we responded, “We’re friends.” He was all, “…AND?!?!” as though this needs some sort of explanation, like “We’re friends AND we were in grade school together AND we share common interests and values AND go out to dinner sometimes or enjoy the cinema AND occasionally our menstrual cycles will sync up with one another when we’ve been hanging out too much over the summers! Whee!”

gigigriffis April 13, 2013 - 9:47 am

“AND occasionally our menstrual cycles will sync up…” <-- HA! Your first paragraph hits the nail on the head. There are reasonable ways of handling tourists who don't have whatever silly piece of paper you need. Professionalism shouldn't be optional.

Beautiful Spaces: A Room in a Vicarage, Lewisham, London | the ramble April 15, 2013 - 3:56 am

[…] you’ve been reading along last week, you already know that I had a terrible time with British Immigration, which put a major damper on my London adventures. What you may not already know is that there were […]

Courtney April 15, 2013 - 7:26 am

Quelle nightmare! That sucks that this happened to you. That’s all I can say. What a terrible experience!

gigigriffis April 15, 2013 - 7:27 am

Thanks, Courtney. It so did.

Kerry April 16, 2013 - 4:20 am

I wonder if we got the same woman – I also had a bit of a hassle with the UKBA Eurostar desk from Paris to London last week, and I live here! (I’m an American married to a Brit.) I was lucky enough to be travelling with him, but when I plonked down my “indefinite leave to remain” card (which usually settles it, because…I already have indefinite leave to remain, which was a GIANT hassle to get but never mind), she asked:

“How did you get indefinite leave to remain?”
“So you’re married, but you didn’t take his last name?”
“Ah, so you’ll bear his children but you won’t take his last name?”

We laughed (because, hello, don’t want to make trouble at the immigration desk) but…we’re not even planning to have kids! What a bizarre thing to say!

Anyway, I’m sorry it was such a problem for you and I hope you have a happier experience in the UK soon!

gigigriffis April 16, 2013 - 8:35 am

Ha! What a totally bizarre line of questioning. Hearing all these stories makes me think that British Immigration is basically just flailing in panic and has no idea how to really identify illegal immigrants and dangerous individuals. Because, really, they’re wasting their time asking people why they didn’t take their husband’s last name?

How Do You Choose Where to Travel? (Hola from Sayulita) | the ramble April 18, 2013 - 1:01 am

[…] ability to sort out my dilemmas, including travel ones. So it only makes sense that after British Immigration treated me to the most stressful travel experience of my life, I turned once again to my own heart, this time specifically looking for the option that caused me […]

Kit Whelan April 20, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Woah. Just… WOAH! I’ve had some immigration issues in my past (I’m looking at you Canada!) but this one just takes the cake. I am amazed that you resisted using expletives throughout this whole process.

There needs to be some sort of formal complaint we travelers can file when this sort of power trip happens. The UK seems to be sending all the wrong messages when it comes to immigration these days, and soon travelers will take their money somewhere else.

Good on you for writing about it!

gigigriffis April 20, 2013 - 11:18 pm

Hear, hear. It’s definitely become part of my mission to warn other travelers off the UK. And I’ve been encouraged by one or two people who work for or in conjunction with immigration (not in the UK, but in other countries) to file a complaint via letter, so I suppose there is a system for it – just perhaps not a great one (I spoke to a guy down here in Mexico who had a similar experience ten years ago and still gets treated like garbage even if he just has a connecting flight through London; he said he’s been given the run-around as he’s tried to get the illogical flag off his record).

Suzy April 21, 2013 - 9:54 am

There is nothing worse than power tripping immigration officials. It’s sad that they get so much enjoyment out of detaining the good guys as they carelessly miss detaining people that they should. It’s all about the power unfortunately. Sorry for your troubles! It’s especially annoying because these instances only hurt the country. As you say, they are missing out on your “alleged” funds from pumping money into the country’s economy.

gigigriffis April 21, 2013 - 11:31 am

Exactly. And not only do they miss out on my alleged funds, but I’m sure every person that this happens to tells all their friends and family, so it’s likely that immigration is putting off even more people than they think.

A Second Chance for Mexico | the ramble April 29, 2013 - 7:43 am

[…] forward to March. British Immigration reared its ugly you-can’t-come-into-our-country-for-absolutely-no-reason h…. And suddenly I needed a new plan post […]

Shan April 29, 2013 - 9:31 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you! I’ve been travelling through Europe and the UK for the last 3 months and just staying with friends in London in between some of my shorter trips. I just came back today and had a very similar experience at the airport. The officer told me that she thought I was lying about travelling. Luckily I was allowed to enter, but she told me if I try to enter again I’ll have trouble because I’m flagged now. Nothing was really explained to me at all! It makes no sense that when you’re honest and making sure that you’re complying with their immigration laws that they still treat you like you’re a criminal!

gigigriffis April 29, 2013 - 11:00 pm

Aww, man. I’m so sorry it happened to you as well! I guess it’s guilty until proven innocent with those guys. Yick.

Gigi Griffiths – A Good Read to Follow | Live Free Die Travelling May 3, 2013 - 8:05 am

[…] thoughts, feelings and stances….none more evocative than her recent harrowing run in with British Immigration (one of the drivers for me writing this article […]

Andrew May 6, 2013 - 12:13 pm

I remember reading the Facebook posts as this unfurled. Insane, especially as I thought the US and UK were good enough “friends” on the global stage to not hassle each others citizens.

I’ve been bugged by the same Eurostar security detail to have an address on my form for the friend I was visiting. I expect mostly because the form had spaces for an address, not that it actually would do them much good. The weird bit is that when I came in to England on a cruise ship, and told them I would be there only a few hours to get on a train, they still gave me 30 days. Germany has never been anything but nice and hospitable to me. Now that I have a visa, they even say “welcome home”.

gigigriffis May 6, 2013 - 12:17 pm

Yeah. Normally they stamp you for the whole 6 month enchilada even if you are only staying a month or something.

Laura May 15, 2013 - 1:57 pm

I had a delay on the Eurostar from Paris to Brussels due to UK immigration… and I wasn’t even going all the way to London! I can’t imagine having to deal with being detained for 4 hours for no reason and now being flagged when you want to visit the UK. I wouldn’t want to again either!

gigigriffis May 15, 2013 - 4:36 pm

Yeah. They seem to think they need to police more than just the UK.

Mike Charalambous May 15, 2013 - 9:23 pm

As i see a few people have mentioned above. I think what’s happened here is you’ve very unfortunately encountered the WORST possible people you could’ve on your way in. And their extremely narrow minds couldn’t comprehend your situation… as unfortunately in our world many can’t.

However, don’t be put off of England. You simply need to make prior arrangements before you come, meet with the British Embassy in the USA beforehand and ensure you will be let in. I have had to do stuff like this for the USA too.

Remember, countries like the USA, England, Australia etc… are all constantly trying to be “gamed” by people who do actually want to take advantage. Sadly, every so often good people will be on the losing end of the stick.

Me and many of my friends have been pulled into interrogation at the US customs, and though Ii didn’t analyse them in as much detail as you have – they weren’t too friendly. Something which i dislike a little more is actually not the interrogation, as that’s what it is… but the normal-standard agents who check your passports – can you be any more scary? Let me explain…

1) Can you smile? 2) Can you be polite when you force me to give over me finger prints and eyes? 3) What the hell has it got to do with you where I’m staying? 4) Now that you know where I’m staying, do you really need to ask me if I’m going to be finding a wife!? 5) Now that you know I’m not, please don’t say have a good trip lol.

This is the standard. I’ve flown into the USA 7 times in the last 5 years, never had anyone at the airport be friendly, and been pulled into interrogation twice.

But, it’s their country, their rules, and they have the right to choose. I respect that. It is what it is…

gigigriffis May 15, 2013 - 10:19 pm

Hmm, will have to look into that further. I don’t think there’s actually any way to get pre-clearance for the UK at the moment, but perhaps I haven’t dug deep enough. (In the US, we require it, so there is a process for it; in the UK, you don’t, so there doesn’t seem to be one). There’s also no process I can find for removing a flag from my record.

Gigi Griffiths – A Good Read to Follow | Live Free Die Travelling May 16, 2013 - 3:43 am

[…] thoughts, feelings and stances….none more evocative than her recent harrowing run in with British Immigration (being British this was one of the drivers for me writing this particular […]

5 Things I Totally Hate About Mexico | the ramble June 17, 2013 - 2:20 am

[…] you. But this whole full-time travel thing isn’t all cream puffs. Sometimes, as you know, things go horribly wrong. Other times, places just aren’t as enchanting as you wish they were (I’m looking at […]

Kyle D. June 22, 2013 - 9:10 pm

Looks like you just got screwed over by a person who was having a bad day! I had a similar issue when I was travelling to the UK. I prefer not to travel with cash (Highly dangerous, even as a male) and I had forgotten to print out my return tickets to the US because of issues I had with check-in (So I think that it all started with check in and me not entering in my passport number right). Get to the UK and I was stopped for over half an hour by TWO people who had me empty out everything out of my wallet, asked what I was doing there etc etc and they only let me in because I had plane tickets and bus tickets to go to Ireland as well! They said I’d be stopped next time I was coming to the UK. But guess what, I left when I said I was, just like when I went to Canada last month (Took all of two minutes) same with coming back to the US, not even 30 seconds. So it’s just the UK immigration people…

gigigriffis June 22, 2013 - 9:58 pm

Sorry you got detained as well. Such a hassle.

Charles Ferguson August 23, 2013 - 5:13 pm

I went on a study abroad trip to Russia and we had to first land in the UK and the customs were in fact awful, but I was let through after a game of 20 questions.

“What are you doing in the UK?”

“How many days are you staying?”

“Where are you staying?”

“Do you have an adress?”

“Why are you only staying for 3 days?”

Why are you going to Russia?”

“What are you studying there?”

“When do you go back to the states?”

“Do you have an itinerary of your entire trip?”

“What do you do for a living?” (I said I was just a student)

“how did you pay for this trip?” (my parents)

“What do your parents do for a living?”

He then knodded his head and approvingly said “Okay, thank you” and let me go.

I thought to myself that if the UK was this bad then Russian customs must be horrible. If any of you know, it is extremely hard to get a visa to Russia amidst all the bureaucracy. However, when approaching customs the Russian lady said not one word to me, matched my picture with my passport, took my immigration card, and then handed me back my passport. I then asked her in Russian “Is that all???” She smiled and said “That’s all.”

Go figure.

gigigriffis October 31, 2013 - 1:19 pm

Yeah. It’s funny how places with tough visas aren’t the places with tough immigration officers.

Tristan October 31, 2013 - 1:12 pm

Sorry to hear that you had a bad time.

I currently reside in the US, and I am British. Last year when I was temporarily back in the UK, my girlfriend (who is American) came to visit me. She got treated like garbage too.

They asked her for proof of funds. Its none of their business! I have come through US immigration three times, and yes, they grill you, but never asked for proof of funds!

Its because of the cushy benefits system that the UK has, and all they believe is that you are there to take their money.

They then proceeded to ask my girlfriend about my stay in the US, and stuff like why I could not work on my US student visa! Hello, what relevance does that have?

None of this behavior cuts illegal immigration. Its as simple as that. All it does is leave the impression on people, that travel is a massive headache.

Sorry that your impression of the UK was that. Some of us Brits at times can be a little stiff upper lip, but we are not that bad! The sad reality is, they hate their job, and feel the need to take it out on the innocent traveler.

gigigriffis October 31, 2013 - 1:21 pm

Thanks for the solidarity. And no worries – I love the Brits, just not the immigration officers. You’re so right that they hate their jobs (or they think they’re big and bad and just enjoy making people miserable), so they definitely aren’t a good representation of the country. Same with the US immigration officers, who have a reputation for being horrible as well.

Caron November 22, 2013 - 7:30 pm

I am so sorry for this. The Brits are asses. They love THE RULES and the grey area has never been examined by a Brit. They pretend to be reasonable but ultimately they are incompetent.
Years ago, my husband and I were arrested for “smuggling” while trying to transfer flights in the UK with out dog. After telling the ground crew on the inbound end we had a dog, requesting the pilot summon quarantine to transfer the dog to the connection and trying to be honest, we were arrested on the tarmac. After determining that it was *my* dog, the British authorities determined that they would prosecute my husband instead because he had a English public school accent, was raised in England and looked liked a privileged, playboy. (yes, I’m lucky. Envison a young Hugh Grant) It still turns up occasionally when one does a background check on him.

That said, I once lost my passport at O’Hare and when I landed at LHR sans documents, they waved me right though while advising me to go to the embassy and get another. Go figure.

gigigriffis November 23, 2013 - 3:53 pm

Oh, poor Brits. I actually had a good experience with the Brits in general. It was just the immigration office that treated me badly. I think immigration officers just have a little too much power and the job attracts some people who like having power over others. :(

Audrey November 26, 2013 - 12:32 pm

I know you wrote this months ago, but I’ve just come across your blog, and being English feel so sorry and somehow responsible for the awful way you were treated by the immigration officer. It is disgraceful that anyone is spoken to so rudely by an official. I must say I was so made doubly sorry by the thought of the plight of your dear little dog!

Today I heard that a newly-widowed friend of mine will not now be seeing her son at Christmas, as his long-anticipated visit from South Africa, where he works, has been cancelled. The reason? The British Government wont give his girlfriend a visa. She is employed, solvent, and they live together in SA. The whole system seems utterly messed up.

On behalf of the nice people of England, I am very sorry!

gigigriffis November 26, 2013 - 12:43 pm

Thanks, Audrey. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I feel very embarrassed when I hear about the horrible way America’s immigration treats people as well. It’s definitely a problem we share, having power-hungry and incredibly rude immigration officers.

Simon Evans November 30, 2013 - 2:56 am

So sorry to hear of your unpleasant experience with British immigration,all the more senseless when you think how any citizen of The EU can enter at will and stay.Please don’t be put off visiting again and taking in more of our Beautiful Country,you are truly welcome.

gigigriffis November 30, 2013 - 2:59 am

Thanks, Simon. Visiting again is, sadly, easier said than done. I’m in the system for up to 10 years and will get flagged any time I try to enter. I’m not banned, but I could be unpleasantly detained again – and I just don’t know if it’s worth it to me.

Meet the Nomads - Gigi Griffis of December 15, 2013 - 9:38 am

[…] March, when I was trying to go from Paris to London, I was detained by a particularly nasty immigration officer. I was stuck in a freezing cold space for hours, shuffled in and out of a scary back room, and […]

Heiko December 23, 2013 - 8:04 am

I’ve just come across your blog via your post in the Cinque Terre group of the Couchsurfing website. I normally live there, but myself the wife and Eddie the Beagle have been traveling a lot this year too and are currently overwintering in Northern Ireland. To avoid nasty customs officials next time, travel via the Republic of Ireland. There are no border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland and then you can come and visit us there… :)

gigigriffis December 23, 2013 - 8:20 am

I’ve definitely heard that’s the better way to go!

Enjoy the holidays in Northern Ireland.

Sara January 28, 2014 - 11:33 am

The British immigration control is a joke.

I once too entered the UK for 5 months, for a long holiday (yeah right like I’m not allowed. I have the funds so what’s their problem?).

I got questioned a hell lot of stupid, reidiculous things, apparently meant to “scare me”.

They asked me what I did. I said ‘freelance’. They replied ‘you’re not allowed to work in the UK’, I said ‘I’m just here on holiday, I have no intention of working, I’m TAKING A BREAK’.

Then I said that my mum would visit later and I said I would go to Paris with them, the guy asked me ‘So why didn’t you book your tickets before you came?’, I said ‘well I wasn’t sure when my mum would be free. We would have to decide together when she gets here’. Then I got a lecture about how “tickets are cheaper if booked abroad”. I said, ‘I have the money, I can book it here’. What I should have said is ‘I have the money, I don’t want to pay for cancellation fees if my mum is suddenly ill or that we suddenly decide to go to Brighton because of the weather’.

Oh jesus, and he gave me a tourist stamp and told me ‘this is a warning stamp’. He was trying to make me feel scared.

I’m going to visit England again in about a month or so. I’m not sure what immigration would say. I’m pretty sure they would come at me again and would ask me ‘why I didn’t have a full time job’.

Oh please.

gigigriffis January 28, 2014 - 11:38 am

They are ridiculous.

Good luck with your entry!

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[…] It started about two weeks after my detention and ill treatment at the hands British Immigration. […]

Mark July 8, 2014 - 12:38 am

I was never detained but was pulled up by an official on a recent visit with my wife. He was very rude and had zero people skills. Because I work for the department of justice I deal with rude people on a daily basis so I had to challenge him on his questions and told him our rights as a visitor from Aus. The officer was left completely red faced. Not a fun experience after spending alot of hours on a plane getting there and then to deal with that must be stressful. Hope you can find some way of getting back in soon. Regards Mark

kiki August 31, 2014 - 6:18 pm

My husband was sentence to 3 years for a crime he had indefinite leave to remain we have two children and have been married for 9 years I am british, he was served with deportation because public right weigh over family life article 8, my husband is reformed he studied in prison in the hopes of coming out and providing a better life fir us, it has been the hardest time in our life, I don’t understand how our children mean nothing to the immigration officer, he has been treated really bad by the immigration officer, the would send his paper works to the wrong prison even though they were informed he had moved prison, the immigration officer also shouted at him and told him” you came to my country and committed a crime so you will get out” he asked her what about his kids and she stated that she didn’t care about our kids that he will go an she will make sure of the (this wad a Asian woman)
He was grated bail and the kids were so happy and the 1 month later they took him to the detention centre our kids were so traumatised after having him back in their life, I really don’t know what to do I don’t want to lose my husband or for our kids to grow up fatherless can any one advice me on what we can do. Thank you

reply September 23, 2014 - 9:30 am

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Chatt soon!

gigigriffis September 23, 2014 - 9:47 am


This Life Ain’t All Roses & Ocean Views | The Ramble November 13, 2014 - 12:59 am

[…] first worst is my detainment by British Immigration. Even thinking about it still makes me want to […]

Brittany December 16, 2014 - 8:18 pm

Have you tried going back since? I had issues at uk border control, the first time i was coming on a school short visa and this guy put a number on my stamp. I didn’t know about the number, so I left for weekend vacation to greece towards the end my visa. Upon arriving back to the uk I was questioned about why I had the “number” meaning that the first time I was let in the guy questioned letting me in. I told him I had no idea I didn’t even know it was there. I was detained for two hours, being my first time abroad I didn’t bring paperwork saying I was going home in a few weeks, luckily I had my return flight email. After much stress, anxiety, and tears he finally let me through, but again put the same numbers meaning I would be questioned every time I come in. Now I am going back to visit my boyfriend for Xmas and New Years and having so much anxiety from it! I understand they are just doing there job, but I wish they were a bit nicer. It’s really a horrible experience, but its nice to know I’m not the only one. Did you receive numbers on your passport or were you just told you’d be flagged?

gigigriffis December 17, 2014 - 3:50 am

I don’t have any numbers and haven’t tried going back (even thinking about going back makes me want to vomit), but I do have a giant X they put there (delightful). And I don’t think we should let them off by saying they’re just going their job. It’s not their job to treat people badly. There are much kinder ways border control could be handled.

Johnny January 1, 2015 - 5:20 pm

Quite hypocritical when a lot of them are trying to establish their businesses outside isn’t it ? Don’t go there, simple, there are other EU countries more worthy of our business. I also agree that it’s not the people, I quite like them in general, it’s their politics and law enforcers.

Jame January 1, 2015 - 8:13 pm

And even worse” is the greatest understatement ever on Falling Skies.

loni February 2, 2015 - 6:22 pm

wow I had no idea this was a regular occurrence, I too got detained at the same border at Callai around 5 pm. “SHe” (hard faced bitch that also smirked) didn’t believe that I wasn’t going to ‘work’ even tho I showed her my bank statement with sufficient funds (10k!) She went thru every item in my suitcase & questioned me extensively.
I thus had to wait until midnight for the french police to escort me back to france. They then let me (and a russian man) out at 12.30 at night and waved us away saying we could find a hotel ‘down that way’ …. The fact was, I was pulling my suitcase in the middle of nowhere with a bloke I didn’t know, in the pitch darkness trying to find a hotel! I too must be flagged as I had my finger prints taken! Why on earth would I ever consider going into the UK after that!

anonymous April 3, 2015 - 9:10 am

I was once questioned for an hour when visiting Greece, then returning to the U.K. simply to fly back to the U.S.. I would be there for 8 hours simply to go from Gatwick to Heathrow. I was also sick and couldn’t speak above a whisper. This woman questioned me as if I were a criminal. It’s ridiculous that a border guard who obviously is miserable can ruin someone’s holiday. Especially if you have friends in the U.K.. it all depends on the border gaurd and their mood when entering the U.K.. the entire system is a failure.

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[…] lines. I feel tense and anxious and have to focus on my breathing. But that makes sense because of that time I was detained and mistreated by British Immigration on my way to a […]

Eva Casey December 11, 2015 - 8:57 am

Wow! I am recently hearing of fellow travelers being deported from the UK, so I took to the Internet to find out how common it is! Apparently much more common than I ever thought! I’m going to London this summer to start a leg of travel throughout Europe and I’m hoping I don’t have as much trouble! Also, whatever happened to common decency? People get too power hungry, I think!

Paul January 12, 2016 - 1:26 pm

I had two unpleasant experiences with the UK immigration officer both female very rude, patronising, very unpleasant.
Just a month ago, I flew from Florence to London city airport, at the border control, I was questioned for almost half an hour about a course I did 6 years ago in London.
She asked me for the name of the school and the address, as I didn’t expect such questions so took me awhile (half min maybe), I told her the name of the school but I couldn’t remember the exact address; I gave her an idea of the school’s location then she asked me for the teachers name .. I couldn’t remember (because I always called the teacher “miss”)..

The immigration officer then implied that I was lying and never attended the school but instead working illegally.
She threaten not letting me through many times went on saying that she still remembered her teacher’s name, and that studying abroad is a big thing she would definitely remember blah blah blah…

she asked me what I did in Florence, Miami and South America.
I told her I was learning Italian language (summer) and Miami/South America was just a vacation.
She asked for my age, I told her my age then she said to me ” for a 40 year old man like you” she stopped there and gave me a disapproving look .. (Err that I am 40 learning Italian and taking holidays is .. What?)

She asked me how much cash I had with me and for my friend’s phone number to call and varified my personal details and ask my friend how we knew each other .. etc

Then she said she is not happy with my answers that I haven’t been honest with her and she believes that I was working illegally and didn’t attend to the school.

I told her everything I said is true, that’s it, I don’t have anything else to say.

Then she let me through and said I’ll call your school and I will make a note on the system, we will watch your in and out of the country.

I said sure (whatever)

(In my head – What a Bitch)

Ty April 24, 2016 - 12:34 am

I had a very similar experience. I flew into Heathrow Airport though. I was pulled aside, interrogated, insulted, treated like a criminal, and, after many hours, informed that I would be returning to the USA on the next flight out.

It was the same kind of excuse – suspicion that I was working in the UK because I had visited recently in the past. I had not been working and had no such intention. I was on holiday. Immigration had no evidence to the contrary. None of that mattered.

Like you, they told me I could try to enter at a later date. And like you, I asked myself, Why? Why with so many other countries to visit, would I risk returning to the UK? To be treated like a criminal? To throw away $1000 for a plane ticket? To waste two days on airplane?

Ty April 24, 2016 - 12:45 am

My Uncle Cam cannot recall British Border Force agents demanding his passport when he arrived in England in 1943, wearing olive drab. No one asked where he worked or how much money he had in his bank account. No one even asked why he was there.

Marrie Delahaye September 7, 2016 - 10:29 am

I realize this is an older blog however I was hoping to get some information. My brother met a gal from the UK and they had made plans for him to come visit. We lost our Mom this past summer so I am a bit emotional and ‘worry’ about all of my family members as if I’ve taken over her role (for her) as being the worried-Mom. He flew out this past Sunday; excited to say the least. My excitement was overwhelmed by fear for him as somethings just didn’t seem to add up (on her end). Stories she has told, etc. On sunday; she was watching my posts to him stating that I was concerned and to please touch base with me every step of the way. She chimed in saying I had nothing to worry about and that they’d have so much fun together. Mind you; they have never met in person but do video chat. Yesterday I was expecting a call to let me know that he had landed and was safe. Instead I receive a call telling me to check on facebook because she had just posted a missing persons report on my brother. Nightmare, rt? Well as a concerned family in a whole other side of the world; we all started asking for information and numbers, etc. She gave a little but not all that she knew so we were left with no other options other than to call the US Embassy which I will tell you; were amazing and so helpful. We were finally able to locate him as he too was being detained by the UK immigration office. Not for having too much money but more so because they didn’t feel he had enough money for the 90 day visa. He explained that he was told to only bring up to $500 american that traveling with large amounts of cash would be dangerous for him… The ‘woman’ also said to us, “I told him not to use his real information when making travel arrangement; I don’t know why he did that” Ummm, because its illegal not to ????? They detained him so long that he missed his flight into Manchester where he would have met up with her. She had no intentions of going to pick him up or meet him; he was left to find his way to the address that she provided (odd, right!) I feel like it was a blessing in disguise that they didn’t allow him through (though I am thankful that I believe he was put on a plane back to the US per the conversation I had with immigration this a.m. ) I am also very disappointed for him and also very angry that the detained him for approx 12 hours and he truly had not committed any sort of crimes. Is this common for traveling to this area? Seems like I’ve read all sorts of stories regarding US citizens being detained for almost nothing for lengthy amounts of time! Will his passport be flagged preventing him from traveling further (tho I hope after this womans conduct towards my family for showing concern – that he never speaks to this person again) I do not want him to kept from traveling to other areas just due to being blindly led into this mess. He followed her lead. She told him exactly how much cash to carry, etc. I just can’t wait until he has landed on US soil and I know that he is with family. I plan to make it my goal in life to warn others about these online / out of country romances. There is so much more to the story that i just can’t share right at this moment but she is just really an awful person. I was worried; did they feed him in that 12 hrs, give him drinks in that 12 hrs, allow him to use restroom, was he abused, cold, etc. Nerves are a wreck!!!

gigigriffis September 7, 2016 - 11:00 am

I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! I hope by now he’s home safe and sound. Unfortunately, it seems the UK has a track record of mistreating people at the border. You’ll have to ask your brother, but I was told my passport was on a 10-year flag, which means any time I went into the UK in that time, I would be stopped. I might get in, but I was on their “suspicious” list I guess. It was all too much for me and I like so many other places better than the UK anyway, so I just haven’t gone back. Even if his passport is on their list, it shouldn’t impact his travels elsewhere in the world. Hope that’s helpful.

Tiffany K. January 17, 2017 - 2:44 pm

Hi Gigi,
I, too, was treated like an ISIS strategist arriving at Heathrow, from Istanbul. Blonde, and blue eyed, I was targeted when the Pakistani family of 12 behind me were waved through. I was pulled from the line by an obese, red faced Brit male who *shouted* in my face for about 25 minutes.

He was drilling me about other destinations, and my purpose there. It was one of the most unsettling experiences I have had….getting into Indonesia and Cambodia was a breeze compared to the U.K.

I have not been back to the U.K since…. It had a definite chilling effect. I need to go to Scotland. Fingers Crossed I will avoid the British Stazi upon arrival!

Thanks for the excellent advice about Colombia! The closest I have come to that level of intimidation was Sicily.

You are slaying it….!!! Keep going. Head to Turkey immediately. I have been 8 times and still want to go back.

kerrie b January 25, 2017 - 4:41 am

Hi all my 44 year old disabled usa partner had the same problem when trying to enter britain at bristol airport last year 2016…the nightmare began when she got off the plane and went to go through customs….a male officer stoped her and locked her in a room for 5 hours like a criminal,,,she asked for a glass of water so she could take her meds and the officer said no….she asked if she could use the bathroom because she has ibs and the officer said no…..she asked if she could ring me to let me know she was safe and guess what…,….The way she was spoken to was very arragant and rude and she was crying and clearly upset about the situation but refused even a tissue…my partner showed the officer all the details he asked for but still she was questioned over and over(it was like some game)….my partner even had har return tickets to prove she was only intending on staying 3 weeks aswell as her travel insurance documents and doctors letters etc….they did let her through in the end but they didnt tell her why they put her through all the stress….because she was interigated at bristol uk she was detained in iceland for 3 hours on her flight from iceland to boston which then caused her to miss her bus back to detroit so she had to sleep cold and scared at boston logan airport all night….shes now scared to death about ever visiting britain again!

gigigriffis January 25, 2017 - 5:07 am

So so sorry to hear about it! I feel the same. I definitely won’t be crossing any UK borders ever again.

mali October 13, 2017 - 11:01 am

mine is a similar case. i studied in the UK for a long time from 2003 till 2009 september. in 2009september i came back to india to meet my mom but when i went back to birmingham airport after 2 months, this lady immigration officer lied to me. she first told me that my collage was bogus. then she came into my interveiw room with my passport. then she grilled me. then she was not accepting my honest answers she played a trick with me and told me to say the truth (even though i was) and that she would help me.
so i told her that i was having a bot of problem with my collage on which she changed and said that i used deception for getting leave to remain and refused me entry. then the cheif immigration oficer shouted at me.
they are horrible but inside UK i had a nice time. i feel sad now coz it felt like home.i am in india now but my family lives in california. can anyone suggest me a nice country similar to UK where immigration are not so bad?
the story dosnt end here
in 2012 i applied a visa and answered everything corrrectly
they just picked one answer and banned me for 10 years till2022
they just do anything.

gigigriffis October 14, 2017 - 1:07 am

So sorry to hear it.

mali October 14, 2017 - 12:14 pm

i am so sad i miss my past life in UK…justt so llonely..i feel i left a part of me behind there…..i live in a city in north india all alone

S.M. January 22, 2021 - 12:28 am

They did a similar thing to me but forced me to sign false statements, denied me my medication until I almost died, refused to get me an ambulance… And now I have ptsd and have been sick for 3 months.
That’s why I’m up in the middle of the night. I don’t ever sleep anymore.
My significant other is in the UK and my life expectancy is about 10 years from now.
Keeping me away from him is torture, and I want to sue them.
They were belligerent, and did many many illegal things that day.
I’m terrified of trying to go back. Even with an unnecessary visa. Canadians don’t need them!

I did overstay because I had Corona and cystic fibrosis.
I couldn’t leave. There were provisions for that.
I didn’t overstay to the maximum even. I could have been there another month even.
I hope they all have horrible lives, they’re corrupt horrible people.

loni August 20, 2022 - 5:53 pm

I was detained in Callais. I made the mistake of saying I was helping a friend in the UK. That’s ‘working’. Despite no money being exchanged! She too smiled when telling me I could not enter the UK, finger printed me, banned me for 5 years (despite showing her my bank funds.) I lost my London accommodations and 2 months plans down the drain! Completely turned me off ever going again.


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