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(This question is sparked by this recent one where the immigration officer asked an EU citizen where his flight departed which ultimately resulted in a two hour delay.)

I am an EU citizen of a Schengen country. I have both a passport and my country’s national ID card on me and I am allowed to legally enter the Schengen area on either. I have read in the corresponding legislation that upon entry the document may be inspected but it must be rapid. I was under the impression that there is no need for questions (indeed, I can’t remember being asked much, only a ‘welcome back’).

I wonder which questions the immigration officer is actually allowed to ask me if he has no reason to suspect my documents aren’t in order. Considering this is Europe, there should be legislation highlighting at least the general boundaries.


Clarification sparked by comments: this is specifically about arriving by air at an airport where customs and immigration are obviously separated and only about the immigration part.

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    Do you actually mean "what questions are they allowed to ask" or "what questions do you have to answer"? – origimbo Dec 18 '18 at 13:43
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    @origimbo I wasn’t aware of the difference between the two but in doubt the second. – Jan Dec 18 '18 at 13:45
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    Is there any reason to believe there's a well-defined list of permitted questions (or question topics)? I'd rather expect they can ask whatever they consider relevant to verifying your eligibility. – Chris H Dec 18 '18 at 13:54
  • In most countries, immigration officers have a fair amount of discretion in terms of questioning and admittance decision. So even if an immigration officer asks a question that's technically "not allowed", then what? Any refusal to answer will almost certainly earn you an extended interview at secondary inspection and likely incur major delays. You can complain after the fact and the results of the complaint may be affected by the legality of the question, but what good would that do ? – Hilmar Dec 18 '18 at 14:50
  • The Schengen Borders Code was revised last year to expand the checks required of EU/Schengen citizens rather significantly. But even before that, verifying the document was required, not optional: "a minimum check shall consist of a rapid and straightforward verification, where appropriate by using technical devices and by consulting, in the relevant databases, information exclusively on stolen, misappropriated, lost and invalidated documents, of the validity of the document authorising the legitimate holder to cross the border and of the presence of signs of falsification or counterfeiting." – phoog Dec 18 '18 at 15:42
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Once they are convinced that you are an EU citizen, they have to let you in unless a few very special cases apply (you would have to be on a list of people who pose a threat against public safety, health, and order).

Before they are convinced that you are an EU citizen, they can ask all sorts of questions and gauge your reaction. They have to form a professional judgement if your documents are genuine and if you are the genuine holder of the document.

  • That starts with asking you for the date and place of birth, when your passport or ID card is right before them. Normal people do not hesitate when they recite it.
  • They can ask where you have been and how you traveled. They can compare that with your appearance -- if you claim to be a business traveler and do not look that way, there might be more questions.
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    "Once they are convinced that you are an EU citizen, they have to let you in": not entirely; they can investigate whether you are a threat to public safety, health, or policy. In fact, the Schengen Borders Code requires them to "verify" this. Furthermore, if they have authority to investigate (other) crimes, which could vary from one country to the next, they may be authorized to ask questions in connection with that even after deciding that you are an EU citizen. – phoog Dec 18 '18 at 15:47
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    @phoog, I thought that border officers merely check if somebody is on that list, not investigate if somebody should be on the list. – o.m. Dec 18 '18 at 15:50
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    As the code is worded, I don't think the traveler would have to be on a list. The code explicitly "includes" the consultation of databases, which implies that other means of verification are possible, including an interview. I can't imagine how this would apply to the public safety exception, but if there were for example a public health order to exclude people with a certain disease, then the code would allow a border officer to ask questions to determine whether the traveler might have that disease, which could of course include travel history. – phoog Dec 18 '18 at 15:52
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    ""Once they are convinced that you are an EU citizen ..". It's up to the officer to decide how long this takes. I've been to US secondary inspection a lot: it's not a place you want to be and arguing with an immigration officers is generally a bad idea.You can go with flow and be out in 5 minutes or insist on being right in which case it can take multiple hours. Your choice. It's not "fair" or "just", but that's the way it its – Hilmar Dec 18 '18 at 17:54

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