I (a south Slavic looking Swede) entered the UK at Luton from Larnaca the other day (black t-shirt+white 3/4 trousers+rucksack). Went to the only manned non-EU booth, which, unlike the EU section, was empty.

The convo went like this (with IO being mildly grumpy throughout):

Me (handing over my ID card): Good morning Sir.


IO: Do you have a passport?

Me: No, how so?

IO: Any other photo ID?

Me: Er, nothing photographic I'm afraid (checking my wallet)

IO: Can I see your wallet?

Me: Sure, I have some bank cards in it

IO: Yeah that'd be good

(I hand over one of my debit cards)

IO: So where did you fly from?

Me: Larnaca

IO: OK...you have the boarding pass do you?

Me: No, left it on the plane.

IO: Well got it on the phone don't you?

Me (lightly smiling): You mean this (showing my Nokia 1112)?

Me: Sorry, but what's the matter either way?

IO: Well I need to know where you flew from.

Me: Should be in your API records, no?

IO: You know about that don't you?

Me (humbly): I have an interest in immigration matters.

IO: Well you don't know enough to know what I'm doing.

Me: No no, that's all fair, but I mean, did the airline not transmit the data properly or something?

IO: No, you're overthinking it my friend.

IO: So what happened to the boarding pass? Why did you discard it?

Me: I always leave it on the plane.

IO: Where did you leave it?

Me: In the pocket in front of my seat.

IO: OK, well I need proof of where you flew from. What can we do?

Me (thinking): Is there Wifi here?

IO: There is

Me: I could log onto my email and show you the email booking confirmation

IO: You get to it!

(I take out the laptop and start it)

(I now realise IO finds something off about me)

Me: Excuse me, may I ask what's so strange about me?

IO: No you can't

(pause whilst I'm logging onto the Wifi)

IO: So do you live in the UK?

Me: No, Zurich, Switzerland

IO: OK, and how did you become a Swedish citizen?

Me: Born and bred, I'm from Stockholm, only I moved after secondary school for my higher studies

IO: But you studied in the UK? Or lived there?

Me: No. Why, because of my accent? No, that's just how I learned the language.

IO: Whatever, just get that thing for me yeah?

Me: I'm right on it Sir

(showing email confirmation)

Me: There you go. So what now?

IO: Alright, you go on then, thanks.

Me: Take care.

I suspect ethnic profiling, but why would an email flight booking confirmation out of all things help with that? Surely I could easily fake it if I wanted to?

  • Sounds like they just wanted two pieces of corroborating information. It does not need to make any sense :-/
    – jcaron
    Aug 1 '19 at 12:50
  • 6
    Leaving your boarding pass on the plane is generally a bad idea, as you have learned. It's easy enough to stuff it in your pocket until you're out of the airport. Aug 1 '19 at 12:56
  • 15
    Yet another entry in the "Crazydre must put a very low value on his time if he finds all this preferrable to getting a passport already" series... Aug 1 '19 at 13:17
  • 1
    @TooTea: Hmm, my experience (from several visits over the last year or so) has been that I've always been able to walk right up to an e-passport gate without queueing. Perhaps I've just been lucky ... Aug 1 '19 at 13:51
  • 3
    Why do you leave your boarding pass on the plane (making more work for the cabin crew who have to clean up after you) instead of disposing of it properly in the recycling bin?
    – Nick C
    Aug 1 '19 at 15:23

Until you showed the boarding pass the only evidence you had that you were telling the truth about who you were and what you were doing was a single ID card.

Against that were a bunch of fairly unlikely coincidences that implied that you might not be who you said you were.

  • Travelling without passport
  • Or any other photo id
  • Left boarding pass on plane
  • Ethnicity doesn't clearly match claimed nationality
  • Accent doesn't match either
  • Claimed residency doesn't match any of the above
  • No smartphone
  • Unusual knowledge about immigration processes

With a second piece of corroborating information that matched what you claimed and what they knew, the odds dropped that you had, say, picked up someone else's ID card, so they let you through.

  • 2
    A recent time coming home the officer chatted about my home town. While I could not answer the actual question I am sure that the way I answered did convince him I am a local where I live.
    – Willeke
    Aug 1 '19 at 15:30

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