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What info shows up at a border crossing?
May 9, 2014 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Whenever I cross an international border, I hand over my passport and then the agents run some checks. What kind of info shows up when they do that?
posted by modernnomad to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
(and no, there's nothing in particular I'm concerned about - I'm just genuinely interested as to what it looks like from the other side).
posted by modernnomad at 4:04 AM on May 9


Anecdata: my friend (American) who has a felony conviction from about 15 years back (but is now a blissed-out yoga instructor) was just denied entry into Canada two days ago, presumably as the result of a criminal background check.
posted by kuanes at 4:57 AM on May 9


Well clearly it depends which border you are crossing (see: Malaysian Flight MH370 which had two people with passports that had been reported as stolen and listed on the Interpol register).

This fact sheet details the Movement Alert List for Australia and the sorts of things that might be checked.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:24 AM on May 9


When I crossed the border into El Salvador, one of the people on our tour bus happened to have the same name as a wanted murderer, so they held us up for a while while they sorted that out -- so they check wanted lists even in the developing world.
posted by empath at 5:46 AM on May 9


When checking in for a flight home at FRA one year, they had a guy at the entrance to the ropelines with a podium and a laptop that was checking passports and asking the basic security questions. Looking over his shoulder while questioning my wife, I could see that he had a list of all the hotels my wife stayed at over the last couple of years, but it seemed like it was only the ones we had booked online through a website.

So I would assume they had a record of every flight you've taken over the last N years, plus hotel stays and durations if you've booked them through a major website.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:59 AM on May 9 [4 favorites]


Anecdote: I have a friend who crossed from Canada to the US and was asked pretty specific questions that had clearly come from a quick google search on his name.
posted by transient at 6:09 AM on May 9


If you are traveling into Europe, among other checks they might be looking you up in the Schengen Information System.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Information_System#Data_managed_by_the_SIS
posted by Nothing at 6:13 AM on May 9


One basic check that may be carried out is to verify that your passport appears to be OK: does the passport appear to be valid and genuine and do you appear to be its owner? This is especially the case for biometric passports.
posted by rongorongo at 6:27 AM on May 9


I could see that he had a list of all the hotels my wife stayed at over the last couple of years, but it seemed like it was only the ones we had booked online through a website.

Isn't it more reasonable they got that from information that you yourself fill in on your landing card?
posted by vacapinta at 6:32 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Isn't it more reasonable they got that from information that you yourself fill in on your landing card?
I think this data is collected electronically as part of the ESTA system - visitors to the US coming from eligible countries have had to fill in their form prior to travel in recent years.
posted by rongorongo at 6:37 AM on May 9


They do google searches on company name and other stuff, too. I have been in security and (thanks to a window behind the agent) seen that they had been on our company website. They were asking odd questions that seemed bizarre until I saw the colour scheme in the reflection and said "It sounds like you're on our website but our useless team manager hasn't updated it and it shows all the outdated crap from last year, but if you click (this link and then this link) there is a picture of me".

It kind of freaked them out. But it got me right through security.

Another time the clerk was obviously starting a google search to try and validate the company I was working for (different one) and I saw her typing the name and said "You won't find them online as it's mainly just a holding company for all the cars and equipment so they don't have a web presence, but the parent company is (x) and their website is (x.com)". Same result: let through pretty quickly.

Don't assume it's always high tech stuff. Sometimes it's just a list of your border crossings and a google search. Adjust your online presence accordingly....
posted by Brockles at 6:39 AM on May 9 [7 favorites]


Isn't it more reasonable they got that from information that you yourself fill in on your landing card?

1) Germany didn't require a landing card filled out with previous destinations when I arrived from a US-originating flight. In my anecdote, I was leaving Germany and returning to the US.
2) Even if I did fill out something, I certainly didn't tell them about my trip to Cancun two years prior. It was on there.

ESTA is the more likely answer.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:40 AM on May 9


When I recently crossed an international border (US into Canada and back) they knew what ID I'd used to get into the country (Enhanced Driver's License) and that it was different from what I was using to get out of the country (passport. I wasn't trying to be squirrely I'd just spaced it) which makes total sense but I'd never thought about it before.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on May 9


If you are looking for official, cleared, open source information, I'd recommend looking at Congressional testimony from the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security leaders. For instance, you can read the testimony on Hearing on Securing the U.S. Border, B1/B2 Visas and Border Crossing Cards delivered by Edward J. Ramotowski, State's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services last November. If you scroll down to the "Security Screening" section, there will be some details about what database are checked and available.

(Actually, this is a great read for anyone. Really interesting stuff.)
posted by whitewall at 7:47 PM on May 9


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