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In the last four days I've driven my motorbike from Milano to Kalamata going through a few nations on the east side of Adriatic sea, and in a couple of occasions I found myself crossing two customs to enter or exit a country (in both cases it was night, and cold, and I was freezing, and after driving for hours and hours, so I did not take note of which border...but probably entering Montenegro and exiting Albania)

Why is that? I noticed that in all occasions one custom asked for both my passport and my bike documents and the other custom asked for just my passport, but still it doesn't make much sense.

  • Quick note: no, I'm not confused by the amazing couple of Serbian borders :-D – motoDrizzt Nov 2 '16 at 16:45
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    Sounds more like immigration than customs, and I'd guess exit immigration and entry immigration. – CMaster Nov 2 '16 at 16:46
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One post is the exit control for the country you're leaving. The other is the entry control for the country you're entering.

The country you're entering is concerned that you have proper insurance and registration documents for your vehicle. They will also be exercising customs control over goods you're bringing into the country. In addition, they will of course be checking your immigration documents.

The country you're leaving is less concerned with your vehicle or other goods. They are only going to check your immigration documents to ensure that you haven't overstayed.

  • Some countries have export quotas and similar restrictions, so it might be more than checking visas at the exit checkpoint. Presumably they also record that you have left. Even the US and Canada have exit checkpoints, but they are currently voluntary (you go there if you know you are of interest to them) because they share immigration information freely. For example, when I imported a car from the US I had to stop at US customs and they checked that I had given them the requisite 72 hours notice of intent in writing before they let me proceed. – Spehro Pefhany Nov 3 '16 at 15:02
  • @SpehroPefhany "Presumably they also record that you have left": In my experience they usually don't even open the passport, though I've usually been in a car with local registration in those cases. Those experiences were also going in and out of Slovenia before it joined the Schengen area and between Bosnia and Croatia before Croatia joined the EU. I suspect it may be tighter now. – phoog Nov 3 '16 at 15:13
  • Don't EU passports have RFID biometric data so they don't need to be opened? – Spehro Pefhany Nov 3 '16 at 15:25
  • @SpehroPefhany they still need to be inserted into the reader. Some (most?) require the cover to be opened for this because the cover blocks the RFID chip. Anyway, on many of these trips I was using a US passport. Typically, the driver holds the passports up for the officer, who then waves the car through without taking the passports. They don't see anything more than the color of the cover (US, Croatian, and Bosnian passports are all dark blue). – phoog Nov 3 '16 at 15:38
  • @SpehroPefhany IIRC the data on the RFID chip are encrypted using a key based on some personal data (name and date of birth?) so you need to open the passport and scan the machine-readable strip on the ID page of the passport to decrypt the rest of the data (and possibly match it to databases and the like). – Relaxed Nov 4 '16 at 16:23
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To add to @phoog answer, it's also possible that different agencies are in charge of customs (issues around import and export of goods) and immigration.

To give you two (somewhat outdated) examples, if you use the French sector of the train station in Geneva, you will walk through four different areas: French police and customs and Swiss border guards and customs. That's not the way it works anymore (among other reasons because Switzerland is now part of the Schengen area) but you can still see all four offices/booths along the corridor. Entering Switzerland from the other side, on the German border, I once underwent three different checks on a train: Local police, federal border guards and customs.

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