So I'm planning on travelling to Los Angeles from mid-Summer to the end of this year after I receive a COVID vaccine.

I've always wondered how normal travellers end up on those shows because I've travelled in and out of a few airports in the U.S. (LAX, JFK, ATL, ORD) and I've never once seen camera crew.

If I was to be captured, would I need to give my consent or is consent not necessary as I'm in a public space?

  • 5
    Are you willing to increase your chances of appearing on the show by being drunk, on dope, carrying exotic animals/plants in the luggage, answering question with a BS story? May 20, 2021 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


The vast majority of the scenes aired on any of the Border Security shows (I've watched USA, Canada, Australia, and a few South American ones) take place in secondary. I'm a frequent traveler and I've been in secondary only twice in over 20 years. That's where a tiny fraction of travelers go after talking to an officer at a booth. Typically they have a good look through your luggage, ask more questions, look at paperwork in detail, call people such as the friend you're visiting, snoop through your phone, and so on. At least that's what you see on the show. The first time I was in secondary someone angrily asked me what I was doing there, and when I said someone told me to "go down there and turn left" they sighed, looked at my boarding pass and told me to leave. The second time (at US preclearance in Toronto) they made me wait, searched my carryon, threatened to take away my nexus card because I had caramels and had said I didn't have food, then let me proceed after about a half an hour delay.

Border Security do some "atmospheric" filming out at baggage claim and such. When they are doing so there are signs around. This news article includes this picture of the Canadian sign; the US one is probably similar. (Note: the Canadian series stopped filming in 2014 after accompanying CBSA officers out of the airport on a "raid".)

Sign about Filming in Progress

I have been in YVR and seen the signs but not seen the crew. The atmospheric filming generally never shows faces or voices of anyone other than the customs officers.

In secondary, I believe if you don't consent they show the footage with a blurred face and disguised voice. I could be wrong: perhaps those people only consented on the condition of the blurring and disguising, and there are others who don't consent and aren't broadcast.

Your chances are smaller than the chances of going to secondary, so I would say "very small." Literally millions of people pass through those airports every year and perhaps 10 or 12 people per airport per year appear on the show.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JonathanReez
    May 21, 2021 at 9:20
  • When I was sent to secondary in Australia, I mentioned how much of a fan of the show I was. The security people couldnt believe I watched the Australian show. Once I started chatting with them, and then told them what neighborhoods I had lived in, they stopped searching me, had a laugh and let me go on the spot. The show saved me a bunch of time lol
    – AussieJoe
    Jan 11, 2022 at 5:20

What is the likelihood ?

For all practical purposes it's 0. The US has about 80 million visitors each year. Maybe 100 or so appear on the show so it's almost literally "one in a million" (or 1.25 in a million to be exact).

The vast majority of people that appear on the show are doing something "unusual". If you are normal traveler with nothing that may trigger attention it's even lower than the number above.

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    I suspect that if you wear a Tshirt with a clear corporate logo, the chances decrease even further. These shows are made for commercial TV, they don't want to include free advertising. Sure, they can blur it out, but as the answer notes there are 80 million visitors. It's easier to film someone else.
    – MSalters
    May 19, 2021 at 9:10
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    That's smart! I'd also add, "don't be interesting". They never seem to pick people who don't have some interesting aspect to them, like a "visitor" bringing a box full of professional tools or someone with "nothing to declare" with a suitcase of homemade sausages.
    – CCTO
    May 19, 2021 at 15:29
  • 2
    @CCTO: What makes you think they don't film many boring encounters that they just discard? (Disclaimer: I know nothing about this show aside from what's in this question and its answers/comments) May 19, 2021 at 19:54
  • 3
    @ShadowRanger: I see your point; obviously the filming starts before anyone can know just how interesting a given traveler will be. I took the OP's question to be how to avoid appearing on the program as broadcast, not how to avoid being filmed, as such. I think this is a reasonable interpretation of "appearing on the TV show".
    – CCTO
    May 19, 2021 at 20:26
  • @ShadowRanger probably. And even more where they start filming only to have the people involved waver and fail to sign consent forms. Not sure though if consent forms are even needed in the US once a person has been charged with a crime, wouldn't surprise me if no consent is needed in that case.
    – jwenting
    May 20, 2021 at 7:42

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