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Going through Customs and Immigration

Every country reserves the right to know who is crossing their borders and with what intention.

Border control is very important to the security of any sovereign country and based on the geographic and political requirements. Each of them forms specific rules and regulations to check unauthorized trespassing. 

Since airports are the entry points of foreign travelers to a country, they have to pass through various checkpoints such as customs and immigration. It does not matter if the passengers are returning home or flying off to another country.

Immigration is a mandatory process that ascertains the citizenship, nature of visit, visa legality and stay duration of the passengers. Whereas, customs are concerned with the goods and possessions that they carry. 

International travelers will have to go through both immigration and customs checkpoints in airports while entering and leaving a country.

What is Customs?

Customs is an agency authorized by governments to check the flow of goods through its borders.

Customs officials are allowed to go through passenger luggage to investigate whether they are carrying illegal or hazardous goods. They have legal permission to collect customs duty for illegally imported goods. 

Custom duty basically refers to taxes imposed on imported goods when transported across borders.

Governments use customs duty to raise revenue, check movement of goods and protect domestic industries.

In most cases, people travel light, and bring with them items meant for personal use or gifting. These hardly incur taxes or duty. 

What to Expect While Going Through Customs 

Normally, the customs area is located next to the baggage collection counter and in most countries, it is a mandatory checkpoint for international passengers.

Travelers may be asked to fill in one or more entry forms before heading to the custom line or while on the flight.

Complete the forms preferably before entering the queue. In case of any queries, clear them with the flight attendant or travel companions. 

Before making the travel plans, make it a point to go through the official websites of the destination country. Every country will have specific laws with regard to imports and exports. 

Some countries have stricter rules and prohibit the import of items like packaged spices, oils and dirt. They may ask the passengers to clean shoes and other personal items. No need to get unnerved, it is just their way of preventing the introduction of non-native micro-organisms.

Carrying firearms and other inflammable items is prohibited in all countries regardless of their internal gun laws or the law of the native country. Double check the baggage, nobody wants to get caught and face the law of a foreign country.

In some countries meat and animal produce are strictly not allowed. And in some other countries, edible items like cheese, artifacts and antiques can put the visitors in trouble.

It is important to avoid goods in the prohibited list at all costs.

Make sure to declare all the items in possession including those purchased from duty-free shops, gifts received while travelling and gadgets that are carried for personal use and work. 

Be honest with the declaration and the rest is guaranteed to go smoothly.   

If customs officials find restricted items in the baggage, the passenger may be asked to pay fines or customs duty.

And in some cases, such incidents may take away the trusted customer tag and they may be put through intense scrutiny in future trips. 

What is Immigration? 

Immigration is the movement of people to a destination country to which they are not native citizens. This can be for studies, work, doing business or at times migrating permanently.

Immigration clearance is a mandatory process that all passengers must go through when they enter a foreign country at the host country’s airport.

Governments have designated agencies to administer immigration inspection. For the vast majority the process takes less than an hour provided one’s papers are in order.

What to Expect While Going Through Immigration 

Upon arrival, passengers will be split into various groups and led to the immigration or passport control area of the airport wherein they will meet the immigration officers. It is important to have all the documents ready.

In some airports, there will be separate lines for travelers from different countries and for domestic and international passengers. Be sure to enter the right queue. This will speed up the process for the visitors. 

In most airports, electronic gadgets including cameras and cell phones are not allowed in the immigration area. Failure to follow these rules can result in a warning by officials and even a fine in some cases.   

The immigration officers will review the passport, immunization and other documents. You may be asked a few questions with regard to the nature of your visit and stay. Even though this can be a nerve-racking process, it is important to stay calm and relaxed. Be honest with the answers and the immigration process will most likely be incident-free. 

Once the process is completed, the officer will stamp the passport and admit the passenger in. Now, they are free to explore or stay in the country for the time period specified in the visa; or whatever the entry policy dictates.

And yes, they need to clear the security again if they intend to catch a connection flight to another destination. In some airports there will be dedicated lines for such passengers.

Second-level Inspection 

Officials may select some passengers for a second-level inspection. Reasons can vary— it can be for some random checks and questioning or for clarifying some other concerns. 

The duration for this additional level of inspection can also differ. These passengers may be granted regular admission if their answers and documents are satisfactory.

However, passengers with incorrect documents can be denied admission and can be deported immediately. 

Conclusion 

For a seamless and rejuvenating travel experience, make the travel plans well in advance. Browse through the government websites to know the destination country’s immigration and customs rules and regulations.

Create a checklist of dos and don’ts and stick to it. Failing to do so may cause various hurdles in your journey. 

Always have the visa and other documents in order. Printing out the visa and supporting documents can be extremely helpful. Ensure that the passport has a validity of at least six months.

These small steps can make a lot of difference in making the immigration process easier and faster.

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