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Friend will be travelling for the first time in Europe and specifically the UK.

Being a US citizen he can theoretically stay up to 6 months so he would stay for a few months as my guest. I am a girl. He doesn't have a definite return date in mind.

We thought if he told them he's staying with some girl and no return booked yet, he would have problems.

Would a cheap ticket to somewhere else in Europe that he wouldn't use be ok as proof he wants to leave the country? He lost his job in the US but he has savings so he's not broke.

What could he be asked if they decide to grill him for some reason?

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I'll start by saying it's generally a bad idea to try to shorten the landing interview by bending the truth or making something up. Time and again people come up with ways to get around an awkward situation and that'll only sink your friend faster. As noted in the comments, your friend will be questioned, the only variable is how much. As a matter of opinion (and of a recent question on this site) I would also advise against assuming that he'll be granted entry painlessly because of his citizenship.

I expect he'll be grilled about these topics.

Premise

It's the border official's job to be suspicious, your friend has no premise for being there. A recently unemployed person suddenly decides to stay in the UK for a few months ? Seems unlikely.

Home ties

Given that he's unemployed, he'll need convincing evidence of solid ties. Something like property ownership, upcoming medical appointment or family. They want to know he intends to leave, and as you've noticed, a flight to mainland Europe is easy enough to dispose of so as not to count very much. This answer could be helpful reading about home ties.

Finances

He has savings, but he'll need to prove he can cover his entire stay there and his return ticket, seeing as he doesn't have one. Note that according to this answer having a credit card might not be enough. Although the answer in the link talks about visas (which he doesn't need) I think they're a good guideline to proving his spending pattern won't ruin him while in the UK.
They'll also ask where the money came from, this question talks about that.

Relationship to you

Even though you are not in a relationship, the burden of proof is on him. The length of the stay will look suspicious and he'll need to convince the border official he's not trying to move permanently. They will ask details about how you met, how long you know each other etc. The fact that he has no previous travel history will not help him because these are sometimes used to establish patterns of travel.

Addendum

Even though US nationals aren't required to get entry clearance before arriving to the UK, doing so might simplify his entry once at the border. In the case of refusal, at least he'll avoid the hassle (and possible removal) you don't want him to experience. Read here for how to apply.

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    That's fine, but the border official will need to see proof of that. – blackbird Aug 24 '16 at 20:28
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    @EUTraveller, no, that's what the site says; you need to read it again. "However, you should bring the same documents you’d need to apply for a visa, to show to officers at the UK border. " – Gayot Fow Aug 24 '16 at 21:17
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    @EUTraveller While I sympathize very much with your predicament, this site has quite a hard "party line" which says "Trying to deceive officials in any way is pretty much never a good idea." So if you're looking for advice on how to deceive border officials, you've come to the wrong site. Any answer advising you in such a fashion would likely get heavily downvoted and possibly deleted. And there are good reasons for that. Deceiving border officials typically is a bad idea. So, I wish you and your friend the best, no matter what you do. But you won't get such advice here. – Revetahw Aug 24 '16 at 21:21
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    US citizens have the 2nd highest removal rate :) – Gayot Fow Aug 24 '16 at 21:21
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    @Fiksdal Could you remove that link? "VisaBureau" are a private company that charge additional fees. gov.uk/apply-uk-visa is the offical government site. – CMaster Aug 25 '16 at 8:32
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Your current plan, a long term visit without a definite end date, is one that is going to cause questions. A multi-month absence means his life in the US is put on hold, which implies weak ties. Regardless of photos, he is prepared to leave his dog for a substantial slice of its life.

You are considering pretending a different plan that would look more normal. Have you considered making the pretense reality, so that he neither lies nor presents a suspicious appearance?

Unless you have already spent a lot of time together, a multi-month visit is not that good an idea anyway.

In this strategy, he would plan to spend two or three weeks in the UK, as a tourist. He would buy a return ticket, reducing his air fare. He could either stay with you or stay in a hotel, but in any case would have evidence of sufficient funds to support himself in the UK for the known duration of his visit.

Meanwhile, he would continue with his life in the US. Look into jobs or education, but schedule interviews and/or enrollment for after his UK vacation. When he applies for entry, he would know what he plans to do on returning to the US.

  • Thank you fro your reply. I understand perfectly why it sounds suspicious but a person might want to spend some time abroad in a specific country because maybe who knows they are thinking of coming to study there in the future. Like he would have a go at seeing how the UK is for a period that's not just a couple of weeks and then go back and if he liked it enough he would seek to return not as a tourist but as a student maybe. I know they can very well argue once in , he wouldn't go back. Makes perfect sense in their eyes. He needs this chance. – EUTraveller Aug 25 '16 at 15:13
  • You can't really say you'll like living in a country for a prolonged period without trying risk-free first. A couple of weeks etc aren't enough to establish you like living in a country. He'd be staying with me, so no accommodation to pay for and he has money so wouldn't need to work illegally to support himself. Why wouldn't he go back? We know employers can't employ illegal workers so why would an American who is not broke come to the UK to work for cash as an illegal immigrant, and so most likely in a low-paid job he could easily find in the US? – EUTraveller Aug 25 '16 at 15:16
  • @EUTraveller In 1975, I flew to California from London having never set foot in the US before, but with an L1 visa and a commitment to my employer that I was going to work there for at least a year. Sometimes life is not risk free, but can still be lived honestly. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 25 '16 at 15:20
  • @EUTraveller Immigration officers are required by law to examine travelers under the presumption that they intend to immigrate. The traveler has a burden of proof to demonstrate a lack of immigrant intent. This is difficult! The traveler could try to rely on the argument you outline, and it might work, but concrete evidence of ties to the home country are much stronger evidence. Coming with just a carry-on or a small suitcase will help reduce the chance of an extended interview. – phoog Aug 25 '16 at 15:47
  • @ Patricia Shanahan I get why you pointed out honestly as not being upfront with border officials isn't the peak of honesty but the way you worded it made us sound like criminals. Now, there are no bad intentions behind this at all. Just don't want him wasting $$$ on a flight to just be sent back because he is unemployed so surely he will overstay. A flight from the US to the UK isn't cheap. Get them to obtain a visa before the flight and they can do all their checks before someone forks out hard-earned money for possibly nothing. – EUTraveller Aug 26 '16 at 8:43
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As it currently stands on the balance of probabilities (since this is the civil test the IO will apply) there is a chance that he'd be refused entry since he is unemployed, no return date, no immigration history, visiting a female friend in the UK...if he is upfront then you never know he might be landed. IOs appreciate frank and honest people. He might even be TA-ed (Temporary Admission) for a few days even if he is refused Leave to Enter (LTE).

On the other hand if you add deception into the mix then he will be refused LTE and as pointed out already NEVER ever deceive an IO they will get to the bottom of his intentions in any event. He'd make matters much worse for himself. Just tell him to be honest about his intentions if they ask him at the border.

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    I'm not sure it's true that IO's necessarily will see through deception - I'm sure they are fooled as often as anybody else. But the problem is that it's quite hard to spin a consistent lie, and once caught in an inconsistency, then it's over. – CMaster Aug 25 '16 at 13:19
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    +1, are there any advantages to entry clearance in a situation like this? – Gayot Fow Aug 25 '16 at 13:40
  • That's why I would go down the route of pure tourist. He is unemployed yes, but has substantial savings. He is currently living with family so not sure if that counts as ties but he does have a dog he takes care of (he has pics with the dog to prove this) and he, along with his siblings, do help financially. He accumulated quite a bit in savings and has been living on them since he lost his job. – EUTraveller Aug 25 '16 at 14:18
  • THe problem with "pure tourist" is well, where is he going to stay? How is he going to afford that? Etc. – CMaster Aug 25 '16 at 15:15
  • @EUTraveller there's an overwhelming preponderance of consensus in the answers you have been given. And you are still clinging to the pure tourist strategy. It's unlikely that another user would offer a different answer and at this point it's best to take your enquiry to another site where they can help you devise the strategy you want. – Gayot Fow Aug 25 '16 at 15:20

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