What do immigration officers see on their screen when they scan your PP?
March 21, 2013 1:30 PM   Subscribe

What do immigration officers see on their screen when they scan your passport? I went to the UK a few days ago and I am a dual US/EU citizen. I took the "Aliens/non EU" line since it was much shorter and tried to enter with my US passport. The office must have realized that I was in the UK a few weeks ago with my EU passport and started to ask questions "Have you been recently in the UK", "Did you travel on another passport". I wasn't a big deal but it made me curious: What do immigration officers see on their screens when they scan your passport?
posted by yoyo_nyc to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I think they can see information about your parents & family members. In 2011 I was coming back to the US and showed the immigration officer my passport. I was born in the US, have lived my whole life in the US, and is the only place I have ever had citizenship. But he asked me:

(immigration) "Where are you from?"
(me) um... The US.
(immigration) "Where's your family from?"
(me) Italy & India.
(immigration) [stoic faced, punches some some stuff into computer, a few clicks, with a pause as he's looking up whatever] He then nods and says "that's cool."

Definitely seemed like he was clicking around to verify I wasn't making stuff up or I am who I say I am. My parents both became naturalized citizens before I was born, but their country of birth was of course on their own files.
posted by raztaj at 2:18 PM on March 21, 2013

I really have no idea, but I think you might be reading too much into this. I think they have a variety of standard questions that they ask, but my guess is that on the screen it just shows your particulars so that they can make sure everything matches.

Of course if you got flagged for anything it would come up on there as well. I recently had a difficult experience with a nearly expired work permit and a damaged passport that caused me a lot of grief at the Malaysia/Thai border. I definitely was flagged because the moment the guy scanned my passport he called the office and then I had to spend hours explaining myself. Ugh!
posted by Literaryhero at 4:32 PM on March 21, 2013

While checking into a flight in Frankfurt there was a security agent pre-checking passengers before the airline checkin. I had a chance to surf over his shoulder at one point while he was checking my wife, and he had a full list of every flight she had taken for the past 4-5 years and every hotel she stayed at.

The airline thing I can see as being shared with TSA and the US Govt, but the hotel thing was kind of alarming. Best I could deduce is that all the hotel visits listed were booked through online websites. I would figure anything you're booking online is being shared with the US Government these days.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:35 PM on March 21, 2013

JoeZydeco, don't you have to provide your temporary address on customs forms? Like, when I go to the US or Mexico from Canada (where I live), the require that I list the name and address of whatever hotel I'm staying in on my customs declaration.
posted by kate blank at 6:31 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another not-really-an-answer:
I have been told by a trustworthy friend with the necessary clearances that there is a surprisingly detailed amount of info on people in the border database. They were initially a bit shocked from the sound of it, but they also weren't at liberty to give details. I wouldn't know how much of that is presented to border agent as a matter of routine, or if a non-routine action is required to pull up significant detail. But regardless of what they typically see in front of them, apparently they have access to quite a lot.

It will also vary by country - countries where the tax, immigration, and border department computer databases all talk to each other will have much more information available to border agents than countries that don't, for example.

And then there is the information that different country's border agencies share with each other.

As you suspect, your comings and goings are recorded. In one country, I (did the local equivalent of) FOIA'd that part of my file, (because some other bureaucracy wanted to know travel dates stretching back many years) and they had no problem sending me the details.
posted by anonymisc at 6:52 PM on March 21, 2013

In the USA, the CBP officer will be looking at the results of the charmingly-named Automated Targeting System - Passenger (ATS-P).

The above-linked Department of Homeland Security privacy assessment indicates that ATS-P data may include (but is not limited to) the following:
  • Name
  • Alias
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • License Registration
  • Date of Birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • Country of birth
  • Payment/Billing information (e.g., Credit Card or Debit Card Numbers as available)
  • Gender
  • Travel Document type and number, issue date, city, state, country
  • Visa type and number, issue date and location
  • Employment occupation code
  • Fingerprint Number (FIN), where available
  • Person’s Physical Characteristics (height, weight, eye color, hair color, etc.)
  • PNR [Passenger Name Record - your airline booking record]
  • SSN when provided by source system
  • PII [personally identifiable information] associated with targeting results or data obtained in accordance with the terms of a memorandum of understanding or other arrangement
  • Ethnicity and/or Race (TECS), based on CBP officer reporting in the secondary TECS record and only if available
  • Biographical and biometric information from or associated with online immigrant and non-immigrant VISA and ESTA applications, including (as available):
    • U.S. sponsor’s name, address, and phone number
    • U.S. contact name, address, and phone number
    • Employer name, address, and phone number
    • E-mail address, IP address, applicant ID
    • Marital status
    • Alien number
    • SSN
    • Travel Document type and number, issue date, city, state, country
    • Tax Identification Number
    • Organization Name
    • U.S. status
    • Income information for joint sponsors
    • Education, military experience, relationship information
    • Responses to vetting questions pertaining to admissibility or eligibility
The ACLU and EFF are not fans.
posted by Dimpy at 7:32 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

This thread goes into some detail.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:47 PM on March 21, 2013

My husband and his father apparently share a name with someone on the East Coast of the US who's in trouble with the law. They periodically get somewhat hassled about it when showing passports, with agents asking them a few questions that seem an attempt to trip up a wrongdoer, but so far never too badly.
posted by telophase at 1:55 PM on March 22, 2013

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