22

I'll cut to the chase. I am an Indian national and as brown as brown can be. The last time I entered France via Paris, the immigration official was super rude to me, and also upon telling him that I was there for tourism, he demanded to see if I was carrying money and also counted it.

I have visited multiple countries outside of the Schengen areas and this was the worst experience I had. And I know he singled me out because there were tons of white people before me that just got a cursory check and moved ahead. So my question is:

Are there better ports of entry for people of color?

I intend to travel with my family now and I don't want them to face the same humiliating experience I had as a solo traveller.

3
  • 1
    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Willeke
    Feb 21, 2023 at 11:04
  • As the discussion went on, I have deleted those posts and locked the comments, please go to the chatroom for further discussion points.
    – Willeke
    Feb 21, 2023 at 17:55
  • Wow, I absolutely wasn't expecting this :) ..I humbly accept all the perspectives offered above and I feel I can just close this chapter and move ahead. Maybe it was just a part of my ego that wanted closure and if I have wasted your time , then I apologize but I had to let my feelings out to see if others have experienced something similar. I actually benchmarked this against my experiences while entering the USA in different cities ( mostly friendly since I speak fluent Americana :) ), Australia, NZ and a couple of Scandinavian countries. SO I guess just lucked out and ran into some frustrat Feb 22, 2023 at 10:03

7 Answers 7

44

Based on my own years of experience of flying to the Schengen area as an Indian, and conversation with countless friends, acquaintances, family members, Paris (CDG) is in general the most friendly port of entry in the Schengen area. Most entries from Paris for me have been a "hello" and "enjoy your stay". I have been questioned extensively, sometimes with the same question repeated multiple times to detect any lies, documents checked thoroughly, at many ports of entry in the Schengen area, especially at Amsterdam and Helsinki but never at Paris.

I guess your experience was more to do with the specific individual you encountered rather than reflective of the general culture at CDG passport control.

Your question is very subjective and doesn't have a "correct" answer. Everyone would have had different experiences.

5
  • 6
    I've found dutch border officials to be very, umm, dutch, that is, professional but extremely precise. Importing a cat into Amsterdam from the UK, and every page of paperwork was scrutinized, with them even calling a translator to check that the English and dutch matched, questioning me about where shots had been done and confirming it on the paperwork, etc. - there's probably a bunch of racism mixed in here too, though, but pendantic checking of documents is par for the course in the Netherlands
    – lupe
    Feb 21, 2023 at 18:07
  • 8
    @lupe In my experience living there for many years and in spite of their own self-image, the Dutch aren't especially careful or professional about anything. Using administrative chicane in an actively hostile and racist way is, however, par for the course.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 21, 2023 at 19:21
  • @Relaxed The Dutch government and institutions have a distinctly Machiavellian way of working where the end justifies the means. The toeslagenaffaire was "just" an enormous amount of collateral damage in pursuit of an originally laudable goal (fighting organized benefits fraud). Similarly for some aspects of the corona response, the nitrogen scandal, … ("we'd like to achieve X, so let's do whatever it takes, an optional apology later"). Thus giving travellers of colour a hard time just because they're statistically a tiny bit more likely to be illegal immigrants is the same philosophy again.
    – TooTea
    Feb 22, 2023 at 10:02
  • 2
    @gerrit That's some nice purging of the comments that conflict with your views, as usual.
    – user134061
    Feb 22, 2023 at 20:58
  • 1
    @TooTea Sure, that's one way to account for it. I still wouldn't call it “professional”, it's mostly a matter of priorities and risk / benefit analysis where the risk is always borne by a certain kind of people. That's especially clear when you compare the effort devoted to fighting this fraud with, e.g., how the railway or Schiphol have been operating over the last year or the general standard of service in the hospitality sector.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 23, 2023 at 9:28
38

I'm brown as brown can be too .. here're my experiences and take-aways:

  1. Yes sometimes I get picked out for extra questioning.

    • Getting frustrated is the worst thing I can do.
    • Be patient, be polite, give them whatever documents I have up-front, that helps them verify that I'm a legit traveller - e.g. permanent residency from the country I'm coming from; work proof etc.
    • It's good to think ahead and be prepared.
  2. RISE ABOVE.

    • Maybe the person is having a difficult day
    • Maybe he/she IS racist or doesn't like my face.
    • => But so what?
    • As long as I'm not physically threatened, they can behave in any way and it doesn't have to bother me.
    • I can choose to exercise patience, compassion, tolerance and love for that person having some difficulty.
    • I have to remember that most people are lovely people and even lovely people can be assholes on occasion - INCLUDING ME.
    • So live and let live.
    • Once I'm away from the situation, let it go. Forgive. Send love. Move on. Live larger and happier.
    • They don't have to stay in my head rent-free.
  3. Be calm. Be early. Be prepared.

    • When I'm anxious and stressed from dragging big luggages and being late to boarding or check-in .. everything stresses me out.
    • Sometimes I can make simple situations into big mountains. Even a nice officer may get pissed off by my bad attitude.
  4. It's not that I have not experienced racism.

    • But thinking this one person represents everybody is wrong.
    • Thinking that every culture will or should be the same is wrong. Every culture is different and the purpose of travelling is to open my eyes to the differences (and appreciate them or appreciate what I have).
    • Treating people politely, generously and kindly usually goes well. Even if it doesn't - I feel great!
6
  • 6
    This is the way to go. It helps if we don't take every inconveniet situation personally. People are not perfect, everyone of us can behave rudely to other people, too. Feb 22, 2023 at 10:43
  • 4
    Hey waitaminute... Are you saying that I don't have to take offense at any little thing that isn't exactly the way I want it to be? Or that just because we're all told that everyone is a racist that they really are, or that I can just move on with my own life? What a novel concept! Thank you and very well put!
    – FreeMan
    Feb 22, 2023 at 19:00
  • ...And sometimes you need the extra time because you've been herded into a queue and forgotten. Airports are full of bad management.
    – david
    Feb 23, 2023 at 10:28
  • Since the "yep, racism" crowd likes to refer to obscure and dubious stats, consider this excellent statement from this answer: "most people are lovely people and even lovely people can be assholes on occasion". Which is more likely, an otherwise lovely person being an asshole, or a legitimate everyday asshole? Great outlook, great answer.
    – user27701
    Feb 23, 2023 at 17:11
  • 1
    @ave Unfortunately, statistics show that some nationalities and races in some areas commit more crimes, etc. Utilizing those stats to enforce the law is called "racial profiling". There's plenty over the last 40 years arguing that this tactic is racist, regardless of stats to back up efficacy. Lately even the stats that support profiling enforcement is blamed on so called systemic racism. Literally, they argue that these stats are not a result of legitimate law enforcement, but various forms of racism just getting these people arrested more. This explains the touchy responses to the question.
    – user27701
    Feb 25, 2023 at 1:24
33

While it’s difficult to rule out racism on the part of a specific individual or group, one has to remember that they are mostly just doing their job.

Remember that, at this time, entering a foreign country is not a right. Each country gets to choose who they want to let in. They mostly want tourists who are going to spend money, people travelling on legitimate business, and people coming to work in specific categories of jobs where local workforce is insufficient, with conditions.

They don’t want people who come under some pretence and end up flying under the radar, overstaying, taking up jobs without authorisation, etc. And of course not criminals, smugglers, etc.

Now, even if your intentions are good, it’s the job of the border officer to try to ascertain it. Lots of people with bad intentions have nice cover stories, so they can’t just take your declarations at face value. They have to check. That’s just their job. Some checks were made before you got your visa, but nothing beats a real interview right at the border.

Who they check more thoroughly and to what extent is based a lot on experience, either personal, or collective (statistics). They are indeed quite likely to have more questions for people coming from certain countries rather than others, because statistically, and because of the relative economic situation in those countries, people from those countries are more likely to try to enter under false pretences. And I’m afraid that India is not quite in the best category, as can be judged by the fact that even for transit and ATV may be required.

As, for quite a number of countries, people from one country have similar skin colour, you could think that’s racism, but it’s a lot more likely to be based on the country rather than the skin colour.

Beyond the country, there are other factors which may make them suspect a passenger more or less than others. A passenger who flew in first class, with high quality/brand name/expensive clothes, is definitely less likely to incur advanced questioning than someone who looks like they are a rough sleeper (and that’s valid for any country of origin and skin colour), with of course of lot of variations in between.

It is part of their job to evaluate whether you are a bona fide tourist. Asking questions about where you come from, where you are going, what your plans are, when you are leaving again, are completely legitimate. Even asking your name or date or place of birth (even though they have the information right in front of them in the passport) is legitimate, that may help detecting people with bogus ID. Asking the same questions multiple times is a classic tactic to detect inconsistencies.

When entering the Schengen Area (and that’s valid in many other countries as well), it is also perfectly legitimate for them to ask for a return/onward ticket, and proof of funds. You may not have noticed it, but the very last paragraph of the Schengen visa application form, just above your signature, says you acknowledge that the prerequisites for entry will be checked again on entry into the Schengen Area. Those prerequisites are listed in Article 5(1) of the Schengen Borders Code, and includes:

c) they justify the purpose and conditions of the intended stay, and they have sufficient means of subsistence, both for the duration of the intended stay and for the return to their country of origin or transit to a third country into which they are certain to be admitted, or are in a position to acquire such means lawfully;

There are many ways of justifying it, it does not necessarily involve putting all your cash on the desk and counting it, but if you state that’s the only money you can count on during your stay (as opposed to using a credit card for instance), then there are no two ways about it. You must be able to prove you have enough money for the duration of your stay.

Note that at the other end of the spectrum, bringing in too much cash and not declaring it it also something they are after, so not knowing your situation, it may be difficult to know which end of the spectrum they were trying to cover.

5
  • 3
    The text you quote directly contradicts your contention that asking for a return or onward ticket is perfectly legitimate. What it says is that visitors must have the means to purchase one or leave the Schengen area.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 21, 2023 at 15:02
  • 29
    @Relaxed it seems to me that asking whether someone has a return or onward ticket is a perfectly legitimate question in seeking to determine whether someone has sufficient means to leave the Schengen area, since the means necessary to leave will be far smaller for someone who already has a ticket. Put another way: asking whether someone has a ticket need not imply that having a ticket is necessary condition for entry.
    – phoog
    Feb 21, 2023 at 15:35
  • @phoog Asking if they have one and be satisfied with an explanation, sure, but that's not how I read that sentence. It's not the main problem with that answer but it should be easy to clarify.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 21, 2023 at 19:11
  • 8
    @Relaxed Asking about return ticket usually has more to do with the 'purpose of stay' part of the quoted section than the 'means of return' part, though it's useful information for both. An already-booked ticket to leave the country is evidence (not proof, but evidence) that someone actually intends to leave the country within the allowed duration rather than entering on a tourist visa with the intent of immigrating and/or working. This is true not just in the Schengen Area, but pretty much everywhere for people traveling on tourism/business visas or visa-free entry.
    – reirab
    Feb 22, 2023 at 0:30
  • @reirab Indeed and in fact it's much easier for border guards to use that justification when refusing entry to someone. I was just objecting to the misrepresentation of what the code actually says, all this or the OP's experience have very little to do with the “means to travel somewhere” requirement or any sort of objective need to check that. Note however that short-term visas and visa-free entry in the Schengen area is not limited to tourism or business.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 23, 2023 at 9:16
24

I frequently travel between India and Germany. I look very European (blond, blue eyes).

I have seen that they man the customs much more on flights from India than from other flights and I have heard from Indian friends that they were caught with a lot more gold / valuables than allowed.

My assumption is that they made the experience that with Indians they have an above average chance of finding someone that exceeds the allowed limits of undeclared cash / valuables.

If my assumption is correct, that would also mean that there is no other European port of entry that is less likely to screen you.

2
  • 1
    It sounds like you're saying that OP would be better off taking an indirect flight?
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 22, 2023 at 14:22
  • Possibly. But not necessarily. When I am getting off a plane from Delhi with six bags, I have not been stopped once. My assumption is that the border-control is on the lookout for people from India because they often bring gold and other valuables. If I am right OP would stand out even more on a flight with less Indians.
    – NDDT
    Feb 22, 2023 at 14:32
8

I am a tall brown Arab with a beard and a Muslim sounding name, who flies frequently to Europe.

I personally never faced the same exact thing you faced while most likely I fit every "singling-out" criterion any airport official might be applying, at least not in Europe and whatever I faced in Europe was much less that what you did. CDG was one of the main destinations I travelled to.

Just act normal, acting extra "sweet" or extra "rude" raises flags, just say hello, hand out the passport, wait for the official to ask you questions and then answer.

I worked with and friended many Indians, they are fine people who can be a bit extra friendly and might be a bit chatty sometimes which is not a bad thing at all, but this might raise flags to an airport official who might think you are hiding something or trying to distract them.

Finally, airport officials are the last "line of defense", they are the finest filter that ensures to allow access only to those who are really coming for the reasons they stated in their visa applications.

4

I am an Indian national and as brown as brown can be.
...
he demanded to see if I was carrying money and also counted it. ...
And I know he singled me out because there were tons of white people before me that just got a cursory check and moved ahead.

One, of many reasons, why nationals of specific countries require a visa is due to irregular immigration.

You should therefore assume that more thorough checks will be done at all ports of entry than for nationals of countries that do not require a visa.

the immigration official was super rude to me

This can always happen. I can assure you, that in the past (as a person who did not require a visa and of the same race as the immigration officer) have also encountered some who were also super rude on occasions. That has more to do with the individual in question.


Visa policy - European Commission
...
The Commission conducts the assessment on the basis of a variety of criteria relating, among others, to irregular immigration, public policy and security, economic benefit, in particular in terms of tourism and foreign trade, and the EU’s external relations with the relevant third countries, including, in particular, considerations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the implications of regional coherence and reciprocity. New decisions on visa exemption are usually followed by bilateral negotiations on a visa waiver agreement.

5
  • 2
    That's true but a complete non sequitur, people who have a visa have already been vetted and border guards are unlikely to be in a better position to assess their situation. Ascertaining their identity to ensure they aren't using someone else's visa ought to be sufficient and people who enter without a visa are much more likely to be flouting the rules. I don't get why so many answers go out of their way to justify routine hostility and explain away the obvious explanation.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 21, 2023 at 19:17
  • 6
    @Relaxed Not all visas require a face to face interview as part of the vetting process. Being questioned by a boarder guard might be the first time a visa holder has to verbally justify themselves to officialdom, there must be a purpose/value to it otherwise all visa holders would simply be waived through.
    – Traveller
    Feb 21, 2023 at 20:03
  • 1
    @Relaxed The vetting done during the visa application does not garantie that when they actually enter that they have sufficient means of subsistence, both for the duration of the intended stay and for the return to their country of origin or transit to a third country into which they are certain to be admitted, or are in a position to acquire such means lawfully; (text from: Schengen Border Code Article 6 (1)(c) Entry conditions for third-country nationals). The task of the border guards is to check that all conditions are met on entry, not just some of them. Feb 22, 2023 at 0:10
  • It was many decades ago, @Relaxed, but when my family got visas from the US to Israel, we sent documents to the consulate in San Francisco and they sent them back. Arriving at Ben Gurion airport was the first time we saw anyone face-to-face...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 22, 2023 at 19:03
  • 1
    @MarkJohnson I know what the legal basis for all this, still doesn't make sense and is indisputably a charade. Consulate officers have seen a lot more documents on the actual financial standings of the visa holders than a border guard will ever see and whether they really have means, meanwhile border guards are not meaningfully checking whether the vast majority of visa-free visitors fulfil any of the conditions. And I am fine with that last part! Just don't tell me that border guards check any of this systematically or in any kind of probabilistic way, it's objectively not true.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 23, 2023 at 9:09
2

Try Frankfurt: Germany is currently actively encouraging Indian IT professionals/engineers to work in Germany and I would expect all of them to pass through Frankfurt if only for logistics reasons, so the staff at FRA might be used to seeing middle class Indians (you mention overseas tourism, so I assume you aren't exactly poor) passing through. Having said this, an Indian acquaintance of mine told me his experience at Frankfurt improved considerably after he acquired an US-American passport, so you might be out of luck one way or the other.

Note: This answer only makes sense for Indian nationals, so strictly it does not answer the "people of colour" question as posed by the OP. It might solve his problem though.

1
  • 4
    I don't think it's reasonable to assume that tourists and residents will get similar treatment. I'm a turkish national working as a software developer in germany and I travel regularly between the two countries. People coming in as tourists face a lot more scrutiny than I do, sometimes they can take >10 minutes whereas for me it's a 30 second check and a "have a nice day".
    – ave
    Feb 22, 2023 at 12:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .