When returning from a long holiday, rather than the usual cursory glance at the passport and wave through, the person behind the passport control desk started asking a whole load of rather intrusive questions. I am a British citizen returning to the UK. I didn't feel like telling a complete stranger about my life so I just gave some short snippy general answers. Is it acceptable to just tell them its none of their business and walk away? (Note: this is specifically for the U.K. not the US as the other questions I found)

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    @SheikPaulofOsawatomie None of that in any way invalidates the question of a British citizen who wants to know their legal rights when speaking to a British official. Commented May 31, 2017 at 16:57
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    How could it possibly be acceptable to walk away? You can't enter the UK until the officer has cleared you, right? Are you going to walk back into the departure lounge and fly to a different country instead? Commented May 31, 2017 at 17:22
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    I think OP is asking if UK is similar to the US in that CPB cannot prevent a US Citizen from entering the US. They can make it difficult, but can't stop it.
    – DTRT
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 17:54
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    If this happened recently, it may be just due to higher security risks in the UK right now. Did you by chance travel to any country in the middle east or north africa? Then this could have been done as a precaution. I would be happy too if my border control inspects their own citizens too in case they travel to suspicious areas. Keep in mind that there are lot of people returning back from ISIS and being a citizen is not enough to let them roam back in the country.
    – Max Payne
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 5:43
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    I had a similar issue but when boarding a flight from the UK to Spain. Going through security I got pulled aside for a grilling. When they started asking questions, I told them I'd only respond if I was legally required to. After some snippiness from them and a "Well, read this" (while pointing at the Terrorism act), I challenged them on their questions ("It says you can ask questions pertinent to the safety of the plane. How does knowing the identity of the person I'm visiting in Spain do that?"). After some more muttering I was told to move along.
    – Basic
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 10:04

3 Answers 3


The Home Office was asked in 2015, what the legal basis for such questioning is. Here is their answer.

Assuming that you are an EEA national, Border Force officers can ask you any questions that allow them to establish your identity and nationality. This may include questions about your travel history. The EEA Regulations 2006 specify that an EEA national must produce a valid passport or identity card to establish their nationality and identity however if does not specify how the Border officer should establish the validity of these travel documents. Questioning EEA passengers is one of the ways that Border Force officers can quickly verify if a document is likely to be valid.

I think it is fair to summarize that general questions about your recent travel history and other matters relating to your identity are fair game. This might include your place of birth, place of residence, et c. You may be entitled to decline to answer more invasive questions.

I am a British citizen returning to the UK. I didn't feel like telling a complete stranger about my life so I just gave some short snippy general answers.

I think that is a very British response.

As a pragmatic answer, I suggest you use the e-gates, because there you (usually) don't have to talk to anyone. These days I leave my earphones in from plane seat to home, and the airport staff get the message that I don't want to talk.

Is it acceptable to just tell them its none of their business and walk away?

It is not acceptable to walk away. In principle you, as a British citizen, do not need anyone's permission to enter the UK, but you are not going to get very far until you have satisfied the Border Force that you are a British citizen.

From personal anecdote, I once declined to answer "Where have you come from today?" on the basis that I could not remember. (It was a long week.) The officer looked more sympathetic than suspicious.

If you are unhappy with the questioning you receive, you can ask to speak with the Border Force Duty Manager for the terminal in question, although this is unlikely to expedite your entry.

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    +1 for use the electronic border gates. I'd be tempted to suggest not using the electronic border gates with a passport that purports to be electronic might itself be suspicious - why on earth would a holder of a passport that actually works in such gates want to queue?
    – abligh
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 20:50
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    @abligh Try travelling with my dad, he can't use a mobile phone let alone an electronic gate. On a serious note, at MAN the airport now has a firm policy of refusing to let you use the desks if you are eligible to use an e-gate. You will be stuck in a long queue of people who do not know how to use an electronic gate while border staff wait around doing nothing.
    – Calchas
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 20:54
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    +1 in general, but also for the "I think that is a very British response."
    – Mikey
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 22:24
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    Wow, I would expect "I don't remember" to "Where have you come from today" to raise a blood-red flag! How did you pull that one off!
    – user541686
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 23:16
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    @Mehrdad Suitably disheveled look, bloodshot eyes, dark circles under the eyes, etc.? Also delivered with the appropriate intonation and accent, of course. Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 1:45

The interviewer has to establish that you are a British citizen, that your passport is genuine and that it genuinely belongs to you. Often this is done with the cursory glance you mention, but there could have been something to make him or her wonder.

Asking questions is one way to go about this inquiry. A genuine citizens with a genuine passport should be able to give the expeced answers. They don't necessarily expect coherent answers at 0030hrs, just typical ones. If that is enough to resolve the concerns, the immigration officer thanks the citizen and takes no further steps.

Saying absolutely nothing would not be a typical response and might cause further inquiries and delays.

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    So in some sense that short snippy answer was the best thing to do, since many people here agree that it is a "very British response"? Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 6:38
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    FYI, "0-dark-30" already means "in the morning" (indeed, that's the entire purpose of the "dark"), so your "in the morning" is redundant. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 0:10
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    @BoundaryImposition, I wanted to use the informal expression, but many readers here might not be familiar with it.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 4:16
  • That's.... a strange rationale. But to each their own. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 10:14
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I think the user may have wanted to have fun with the term in question
    – fdcpp
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 10:04

Just ask them if they have any reason to believe your passport is not genuine, and, whatever answer they give, be it in the affirmative or not, politely tell them that you refuse to be interviewed in a public space (which passport control area is), and request that, if they have any questions, you require an interview room.

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    Unfortunately, this is likely to be entirely counterproductive to the OP's actual aim, which is to get through passport control as quickly as possible and with as little human interaction as possible.
    – Martha
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 19:21

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