12

I am a US citizen with a long stay visa for France in my passport. It looks like this. It is valid for one year.

I booked a one-way flight to France and the check-in agent was adamant that this document didn't "prove my residency". Essentially, I couldn't prove I wasn't going to overstay the 90 days afforded to an American tourist.

In the end, I had to buy a random bus ticket from Paris to London (at the agent suggestion) so that he could put this information "in the system".

What went wrong? What was I supposed to say when he threatened I couldn't board the plane without it? How can I avoid this in the future?

  • 4
    Welcome to TSE. Please don't link to search results, which change constantly; there are a variety of different documents that come up when I view that link. – choster May 1 at 21:55
  • 9
    I suggest the check-in agent is an idiot; you should ask to speak to a supervisor; you should complain to the airline in question. – Andrew Lazarus May 1 at 22:46
  • 2
    @AndrewLazarus The check-in agent did what they were trained and asked to do. In any service role, you want your front line staff trained to quickly and cheaply deal with 99% of all service requests. It is up to his supervisor and above to deal with the other 1%. – Aron May 2 at 7:35
  • 1
    @Andrew Lazarus I left out this detail to keep the story short but... that WAS the supervisor. I also filed a complain on the airline's website. Best I can do I suppose... – screwnut May 2 at 11:50
  • 1
    @Aron Yes, but you also want your front line staff trained to be able to recognise when a situation is not in the 99% that they have learned how to handle, so that they can refer it upwards. Knowing what you don't know is just as important as what you know. The check-in agent should be thinking "I've never encountered this before; I will refer it to my manager" rather than "I've never encountered this before; I will attempt to apply the procedure from a different scenario to it and hope for the best" (note: my point is general - in this case it seems it was in fact a manager). – JBentley May 2 at 13:34
25

Humans are fallible. Even the ones that are meant to be well trained.

I spent years in America on a visa that nobody recognised because there are so few in circulation (E3). I almost got arrested at a DMV because a police officer went on a power trip about me being in the country illegally because of the date on my Verizon bill being before my visa start date. On the same day I had a DMV employee refuse me a drivers license three times (I waited for him to finish his shift and the next person who came on processed me no worries). I had to argue with the IRS sending me a $10,000 bill for 3 months of income and my entitlement to file a 1040-NR. I had to explain to the lady at the social security office on two separate occasions about my right to an SSN on my visa. Every time I only got a positive outcome only when I escalated to the persons superior.

So as to what went wrong, the agent made a mistake. It happens. It happens all the time. As for how to avoid it? You need to know the system better than everyone. And I mean that. You need to know your rights and the laws that enforce your rights so that when you get into a disagreement with an official you can request to speak to their supervisor and present the supervisor with the correct information.

And then cross your fingers that the supervisor is not having a bad day and decides to take it out on you.

As an aside: I also had issues boarding a flight the USA, alone, on a one-way ticket. The gate agent quizzed me heavily, and then a seperate security guard asked me a bunch of questions on behalf of the US Government (apparently), and then I got flagged SSSS on my ticket which means you're going to get delayed at every single security checkpoint and get touched in personal places and maybe even miss your connecting flight because you're waiting for the single security person working at LAX at 5:30am to come back so they can excruciatingly go through every single item in your luggage and then not repack it neatly. Or so I've heard.


Update: If you wanted to print out your requirements to show to an uncooperative gate agent and you believe you are in the right, you would want to show them the IATA Timatic information for your flight. Public access to the system comes and goes over time as airlines add/remove functionality from their websites. However as of May 2019 you can access https://skyteam.traveldoc.aero/

For example:

enter image description here

enter image description here

This is only very basic information however you can see the part highlighted in yellow that states

Passengers not holding onward/return tickets or other acceptable evidence of onward/return travel may be refused entry.

My guess is that this is what the agent fixated on, ignoring your visa for whatever reason. So in this case having the document may not have actually helped, but knowing your rights may have.

There is a more complicated but slightly more comprehensive check at https://www.timaticweb2.com/integration/external.php?ref=d975cfc59f5c0abd06d16e872198110b

enter image description here

This basically says the same information, giving more evidence that your agent was being ignorant.

  • Good answer. I would just add that your recommendations should be even more considered when you're buying/flying a one way ticket. These tickets makes most airline employees nervous ... – Hoki May 2 at 13:57
  • I like this answer, especially since it can be applied to more than just travelling. – Clockwork May 2 at 14:21
  • @Mark Henderson Thanks for your answer. I had a uncomfortable suspicion that the answer was going to be not much more than "an ignoramus was in charge". I do wonder if there exists a "law textbook" with literal pictures of what visas look like so that I could shove it in their face otherwise it's just a shouting match with somebody who has more power than you. – screwnut May 2 at 21:37
  • 1
    @screwnut I remembered the name and have updated my answer – Mark Henderson May 2 at 21:54
  • 1
    @MarkHenderson Thanks for doing that work! Funnily, on the timatic webpage, if I add France in the Residence Country field and Residence Permit in the Residence Document field, then all is green and good to go, unsurprisingly. Of course, what constitutes such a document is at play here. I've also found this informative page that I'll link for my and everyone's benefit: schengenvisainfo.com/visa-sticker. I wonder if next time this happens, the agent will be receptive to being taught on the spot how do their work... I may report back in a few months! :) – screwnut May 2 at 22:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.