I have now been travelling to the US for many of years and on a near monthly basis in the past year, which means that I have faced the US border on a number of occasions.
The experience can range from the”what happened are we in the US already” to “what have I done” on the experience scale … this morning the latter was the case for me. First off the bus, I was the last to board the bus … not because anything was wrong (at least I do not believe that to be the case), but because the official was very thorough.
If you are planning to visit the US … i.e. TechReady 10 attendees … you should take note of a few simple things I have learnt through the years:
- Be courteous at all times.
- Be patient when the official asks you seemingly endless and at times strange questions, such as “why are you using the bus and not your car to visit the US?”. This question rattled me, because for me using the bus is economical, environmentally friendly and as the bus is a moving WiFi office, immensely convenient … not to mention that I often catch up on lost sleep.
- Be prepared like a Swiss military control centre … without actually mentioning the word military … in terms of the paperwork. What has been important for me to date:
- Passport … don’t laugh, I have seen people been escorted away at immigration after forgetting their passport.
- Invitation letter outlining the reason for your visit and confirming what, when and why you are entering the US.
- Proof of accommodation.
- Proof of return ticket, be it air, bus, sea or walking.
- A clear breakdown of why you want to enter the US, what you will be doing, who you will be visiting and how/how will pay for the expenses.
- A clear historical breakdown on when you last entered the US … don’t guess, the monitor in front of the official probably has all the information for verification.
- A clear historical breakdown on when you were last in your home country, home city and what you miss most of all from home. Huh?
The above is a breakdown on all the information I had to present over the past few years and especially this morning … whereby I was ill prepared for 3.6 and 3.7 … which probably triggered an additional branch of questions that I cannot remember.
Fortunately I made it through eventually and what I must emphasise is that the border control was very friendly this morning … which is probably what threw me and shoved me down the “what have I done” path :)
In summary, be courteous, patient and prepared. These officials are merely doing their job and at the moment, with heightened security alert levels, they are obviously doing it with a lot more tenacity and thoroughness.
Oh, before I forget … forget the following when planning a trip to the US: Fruit of any kind and for my South-African colleagues please leave the Biltong at home as well! These items may throw you way beyond the “what have I done” scale … the movie Midnight Express comes to mind :)