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My boyfriend is a UK citizen. He is now living in Belfast temporarily. I want to meet up with him in Dublin travelling from HK (Visa Free) (connecting flight in Amsterdam). I will have a return ticket to fly back to HK in 2 weeks later from Dublin.

But I'm worried I will have a hard time at Dublin immigration since I'm travelling by myself as a female (I'm 29).

I had a hard time at Belfast immigration 2 months ago. He questioned us and nearly refused me entry. I don't know if UK immigration has the record or not. If they do, I don't know if UK and Ireland immigration share the information, or they are separate and don't share information.

Would it be hard for me to pass Dublin immigration?

Also, I have two options flying to Dublin from HK:

  1. connecting flight in London
  2. connecting flight in Amsterdam

Since I had a hard time at Belfast immigration, changing flights in London will not be a good choice for me, right?

The story of having a hard time in Belfast immigration:

I hold a Hong Kong passport which grants me visa-free to the UK for 6 months.

I first arrived in the UK as a visitor on 31st Oct, 2019 with my boyfriend. The office just asked me some general questions and gave me a stamp (refer to pic 1) saying "Leave to enter for six months" from Heathrow airport immigration. He didn't ask if I have a return flight ticket to HK.

After couple months, I left the UK for Amsterdam with my boyfriend for a short vacation on 27th Dec, 2019 and re-entered the UK on 29th Dec, 2019 at Belfast airport.

This time, the immigration officer gave me a hard time after learning I didn't have a return flight ticket to HK (plus, I think it's because my boyfriend's attitude wasn't that nice to him). He took my passport and detained me and walked away (I guess he went to the office). After he came back, he interviewed my boyfriend not me. After the interview, he said to my boyfriend there are two options: (1) send me back to Amsterdam right away, or (2) I can enter but have to leave the UK by 31 Jan 2020.

Of course he chose the second option, and got a stamp similar to the one from Heathrow saying "Leave to enter for/until 31 Jan 2020" (refer to pic 2)

Other than that, he didn't give me any documents or anything.

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    @Traveller You're probably thinking about this one travel.stackexchange.com/questions/153493/…
    – jcaron
    Feb 17 '20 at 15:13
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    @Jessica the question is almost an exact copy-paste of the previous question, also posted by an account named "Jessica".
    – Tom W
    Feb 17 '20 at 15:14
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    @Jessica Because it wasn’t clear to UK Immigration how and when you intended to leave the UK, and on the face of it you fit the profile of a higher risk visitor (young, presumably no ties to home, British boyfriend etc). Typical tourists don’t make lengthy open-ended visits because they have jobs, dependent family etc that compel them to return. Personally, I think your risk of being denied entry is probably relatively high at this point, whether you enter with your boyfriend or alone.
    – Traveller
    Feb 17 '20 at 15:36
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    @Jessica Note that if the immigration officer in Dublin pays any attention to your travel history, they will see that: you have been in the UK for nearly 3 consecutive months quite recently, and that the last time you came to the UK, you were only given one month on your Leave to Enter rather than the usual 6 months. They are bound to ask many questions, including how you are supporting yourself for all this time, why you got only that sort Leave to Enter last time, and so on...
    – jcaron
    Feb 17 '20 at 16:00
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    Going in via Dublin after being hassled at Belfast is definitely going to strike them as suspicious (it's the sort of thing someone would do to try to evade immigration controls). Honestly, I think you'd have better luck at Belfast, as long as you correct whatever flaws they found in your request for entry last time.
    – Sneftel
    Feb 17 '20 at 16:09
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I agree with the existing answers, but wanted to raise a subtle issue that you may be able to adjust to improve your chances.

In the title, you call yourself a "girl" rather than a "woman". During your previous entry at Belfast the immigration officer ended up talking about you with your boyfriend, rather than talking with you directly, and you let your boyfriend decide what you were going to do.

It is possible that you are subconsciously communicating an attitude of dependence, rather than of being a fully competent adult. That could matter, especially if you travel without a visa and need to convince the immigration officer, in person, that you will not overstay. The more you give an impression of dependence, the higher the perceived risk of overstay.

The ideal impression to give is that you are a capable woman, running your own life in Hong Kong, although you do enjoy visiting your boyfriend. Of course, you also need solid documentation of that life, as discussed in earlier answers.

I have have traveled internationally while alone and female many, many times, starting in my early 20's, and it has never seemed to be a problem.

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    It’s also possible that the IO wanted to check out information given by the OP up to that point, to confirm that the OP’s story tallied with the BF’s story.
    – Traveller
    Feb 17 '20 at 19:01
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    @Traveller That would explain some questioning of the boyfriend, but not asking him for her decision about whether to take a short stay or go back to Amsterdam. Feb 18 '20 at 0:11
  • I’ve been on the receiving end of such questioning when I sponsored my partner’s visit visa. I too was spoken to separately from my partner before he was allowed to enter the UK, I imagine that is the norm in such circumstances. The OP doesn’t say that the IO ‘asked’ the BF for her decision, she says that the IO told the BF that there were two options. It’s maybe a matter of interpretation but I don’t think the BF decided anything on anyone’s behalf, nor did he get to choose the outcome - he would obviously have said he wanted option 2 but the decision was the IO’s.
    – Traveller
    Feb 18 '20 at 8:21
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Bring hard copies of any and all evidence of ties to HK (in a soft binder) to present at Dublin/Belfast airport if asked, and never lie about anything.

Signed/stamped employment/school letter with contact details, utility bills, proof of family ties, proof of income, bank statements, return ticket, notarised invitation letter from your boyfriend etc. Anything and everything to convince them that you can support yourself without resorting to employment/public funds and that you'll return home, and not live in Ireland/the UK through multiple visits.

Have a look at this post, especially the "DOCUMENTS I CARRIED ALONG" section.

If you want the opinion of border control at Dublin airport, you can e-mail them at bmu@justice.ie. In that case, explain your circumstances (ties to HK) in detail and tell about your recent problems in Belfast. Don't mention anything irrelevant, but everything that is relevant.

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Would it be hard for a girl to pass Ireland immigration who is travelling alone from HK?

Not usually.

Would it be hard for a girl to pass Ireland immigration who is travelling alone from HK (when you are obviously using it as a means to avoid UK immigration hassles)?

Yes.

The problem is not your gender or where you are from, but the fact you are obviously using Ireland as a way to avoid UK immigration. The two immigration services are in close cooperation and are on the lookout for just this kind of thing.

As others have already said, apply for a UK visitor visa, clearly stating your ties to home and the fact you have a return ticket. Either that, or encourage your boyfriend to visit you in Hong Kong.

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    Apart from any travel/immigration perspective, it would be the decent thing to do anyway, you visited your boyfriend, now he can visit you. It also might make a good impression for having a genuine relationship.
    – JakeDot
    Feb 17 '20 at 19:06
  • Also, it seems from the question that they can each travel to Amsterdam, so that might be a good place for a joint vacation if the boyfriend has less vacation time for long distance travel. Feb 18 '20 at 3:43
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    It's not obviously using Ireland to avoid UK immigration because they're going to remain in Ireland. The problem is that it appears to be using Ireland to avoid UK immigration.
    – phoog
    Feb 18 '20 at 4:51
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Instead of taking a risk at the border, you may want to consider asking for a UK visa.

If you get rejected at the border, this will mean lost money (the cost of the ticket and any other non-refundable reservations you may have made), a stain on your record, a lot of hassle and trouble (as you noticed last time, it can be quite stressful when they start asking questions beyond the usual, so imagine if they actually say "no", put you in a holding room — which in some places in more of a cell than a room, and send you on the first flight back home).

Given that:

  • You have a boyfriend in the UK
  • You have already stayed about 3 months in the last 4 in the UK, if I understand your travel history
  • The last time you entered the UK, you were given only a one-month Leave To Enter instead of the usual 6 months
  • You may seem to be trying to circumvent UK immigration by using alternative means of entrance in the CTA

The chances you would be rejected are not negligible.

Getting a visa, even though not a guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the UK with one, would significantly reduce your chances of being rejected at the border (if you were truthful in your visa application).

Requesting a visa will give you more time to gather all the required evidence (and understand what they expect — even from someone who would normally allowed to enter without a visa) and present your case in better conditions (with a lot less stress) than at the border.

You may also want to check if there aren't any types of visas that could be more adapted to your specific situation (it's unclear from your questions whether you are planning to spend a lot of time in the UK with your boyfriend or even intend to marry him). Weigh the pros and cons of the various types of visas carefully though.

As to the title of the question, no, being a girl travelling alone should not make much of a difference, if at all. It's more likely it's your travel history which is the issue.

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    The downside of applying for a visa is you're rarely given the opportunity to provide any needed clarification; they'll usually take what you send at face value and that's that. If bringing the exact same type of evidence to the border, you're face to face with the authorities and so, in practice, have more recourse. I do agree with the advice to organise and prepare the documentation well, though
    – Crazydre
    Feb 17 '20 at 16:14
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    @Crazydre Granted, mileage may vary depending on the level of personal impact and articulation skills when using the face-to-face method. But I still fully agree with you.
    – kiradotee
    Feb 17 '20 at 23:01

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