So the following conversation took place at Gatwick Airport in April 2015, around 10:30PM, as I was entering the UK on a Swedish ID card. I was dressed in jeans and a plain red t-shirt (it was warm outside), had a laptop bag for hand luggage and was sober.

(I look southern European, perhaps Bulgarian, and speak Estuary English - basically like Gordon Ramsay accent-wise)

IO: Where are you arriving from?

Me: Zurich

IO: Where are you headed to?

Me: London

IO: What will you be doing in London?

Me: Just visiting

IO: For how long?

Me: A week

IO: Where will you be staying?

Me: At a hostel in Dollis Hill

IO then looks at my ID and scans it with a UV lamp. After 30 seconds…

IO: Do you have another document?

Me: Er, such as?

IO: Dunno, bank card, library card, driving licence, anything.

Me: Nothing with a photograph I’m afraid, but here’s my debit card (handing in my Maestro card)

10 seconds later...

IO: How come you’ve got a Swiss bank card!?

Me: Because I live and study in Switzerland, in Zurich

IO: Since when?

Me: Autumn 2014

IO: What do you study there?

Me: Computer science, at the federal institute of Technology

IO: Towards what degree?

Me: Bachelor

IO scans the ID, and 30 seconds later...

IO: Alright, have a good evening.

The question in bold is among the weirdest questions I've received from immigration anywhere, although thinking about it, I suspect the officer had her doubts about me actually being an EEA national.

Is this the likely reason for the unusually long landing interview (for an EEA national)?

On some previous occasions I've cleared immigration at the same airport, under identical circumstances, without a single question.

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    You can consider yourself extremely lucky, if the was the weirdest question you ever got at immigration. Immigration officers are supposed to ask some off beat questions to gauge your reaction. See statewatch.org/news/2007/jan/…
    – Hilmar
    Dec 16, 2016 at 14:42
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    @GayotFow Interesting, yes, I agree, but still impossible to answer. If I had to guess, I would suppose that the IO assumed the id to be counterfeit or that Crazydre was not the genuine owner. Swedish national id cards are quite rare (most Swedes use their passport, even for intra-EEA travel), within the EU, Swedish travel documents are most commonly counterfeited or misused (source: Dagens Nyheter) and combined with a south European appearance it was perhaps enough to ring the IO's warning bells. Dec 16, 2016 at 16:52
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo that comment is worth tarting into an answer. It would be a shame to lose that knowledge if the mods cleaned up the comments. Recommend making an answer, then ping me so I can up vote it :)
    – Gayot Fow
    Dec 16, 2016 at 17:15
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    The first time I had any landing interview, upon my first visit outside Europe and to the USA, the first question I got asked was: Are you an ophthalmologist? Turns out there was a major ophthalmology conference going on and he had been processing dozens of Europeans of my page, with poster tubes like me, who were all ophthalmologists.
    – gerrit
    Dec 16, 2016 at 17:25
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    You look like you come from the Balkans, sound British, have a Swedish ID card and a Swiss bank account. My money says the immigration officer felt that was an unlikely combination. Dec 16, 2016 at 19:45

3 Answers 3


The officer might have wondered if your documents are genuine or a (good) forgery. That can sometimes be gauged by asking a couple of rambling questions and see if the answers are coherent. That starts with "what is your birthdate" even if they have the passport directly in front of their eyes and goes from there.

In that sense yes, he questioned your nationality.

  • 1
    True. I've been asked what's my name while the IO was holding my passport, and whether I lost weight singe the passport was issued. Valid questions, because my passport photo doesn't look much like me anymore :(
    – George Y.
    Dec 16, 2016 at 21:50
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    @GeorgeY. "I've been asked what's my name while the IO was holding my passport". LOL, I had just that happen to me in July at the ferry port of Alat, Azerbaijan. The guy, who basically looked like a fat Mr. Bean, likely wanted to establish if it was possible to use English with me.
    – Crazydre
    Dec 18, 2016 at 22:59

You stated you were arriving from Zurich. The officer asked you a destabilizing question: why do you have a Swiss debit card?

Such questions are meant to gauge your reaction and the consistency of your story. A legitimate holder would react, naturally, just as you did: "uh, because I said I live/study in Zurich, Switzerland." A non-legitimate holder (one who is just repeating a story and not familiar with geography) might stammer, hem-and-haw, or try to talk the question away, like: "oh my brother is Swiss."

This kind of non-sequitur probing is common. Just proceed as normal.

  • 1
    Is destabilizing a common term in some theory of interrogation? If so, it would help your answer to link to a discussion or description of this theory.
    – phoog
    Dec 17, 2016 at 1:22
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    @phoog. Not as a named theory, but as an adjective. For example, "Interrogation techniques are designed to create a destabilizing sense of shock"
    – bishop
    Dec 17, 2016 at 1:31
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    @phoog I updated my answer to link to a discussion of general destabilization techniques, some of which apply specifically to interrogation.
    – bishop
    Dec 17, 2016 at 1:43
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    Honestly, I think from most people you'd get a look and response which would suggest that they think the officer is an utter moron... Dec 17, 2016 at 18:49
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    @Crazymoomin Which is a natural reaction and you "pass the test"
    – Mawg
    Mar 6, 2017 at 9:56

Turned comment into answer per @Gayot Fow suggestion

You can consider yourself extremely lucky, if the was the weirdest question you ever got at immigration. Immigration officers are supposed to ask some off beat questions to gauge your reaction. See http://www.statewatch.org/news/2007/jan/uk-ho-immig-decision-making-study.pdf

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    The report, however, concerns non-EEA nationals. Crazydre is Swedish, so has a legal right to enter the UK. In fact, he is in the category of people who are legally "not subject to immigration control." His right of entry can be denied only for certain very limited reasons. So the questions can only be understood as proper if there was some suspicion about the authenticity of the ID or of Crazydre's being a threat to public safety, health, etc.
    – phoog
    Dec 16, 2016 at 15:27
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    I'm British with matching passport and typical accent and appearance and I've been asked weird questions by UK border force at Gatwick too, about my work, about seemingly random details about how I spend my free time, why I do what what I do... I airways assumed they just automatically suspect people traveling alone of possibly transporting drugs or something and are looking to catch people out Dec 16, 2016 at 16:29
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    @Relaxed but surely they can ask questions if they suspect something is amiss, can't they? (US immigration inspectors ask "improper" questions of US citizens seeking entry, but I've always accepted this because they are also evaluating the customs declaration before they notate it and return it to the traveler for presentation to the customs inspector.)
    – phoog
    Dec 16, 2016 at 16:30
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    @Crazydre "customs is about whether your stuff gets in, immigration about whether you do": that's true in the US, too, but the immigration inspector has responsibility for processing the customs declaration, and therefore has multiple functions. IIRC, this was true even when the INS and the customs service were separate departments.
    – phoog
    Dec 16, 2016 at 17:23
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    @Crazydre Immigration inspectors may learn something during the interview that makes the traveler a more likely target for customs. After returning to the US from Europe after my father had passed away, and the immigration inspector learning of this during the interview, my customs form was marked up such that it prompted customs to do a bag search. My hypothesis is that the immigration officer suspected that I might have inherited a valuable item that I failed to declare.
    – njuffa
    Dec 16, 2016 at 18:23

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