First experience with USA Secondary screening

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N860CR

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Had my first run-in with USA Secondary screening at SNN off BA1 today. Just trying to figure out why...

Traveling with my better half on a OneWorld award. Not an overly complex one, however we have visited Jordan and Egypt which I can only assume are the sticking points.

For those who are interested... The whole process wasn't enormously unpleasant, just stressful (not helped by the 45 minute flight turnaround)

We both went to separate immigration officials who went through the usual motions and did the standard fingerprinting. Usual questions, nothing of concern until she said "you'll just need to come with me". Walked into the little room and my partner was already waiting.

Questions basically involved describing the trip thus far, but no specific questions on the Middle East for me. My partner reported that the agent said a few times "we have record of you visiting Syria" which was odd... As we hadn't.

They photocopied the contents of our wallets including credit cards which is a bit annoying. Randomly, they also copied my "MyBus3" ticket which had been in my wallet for so long I'd forgotten about it. Maybe those on the bus to randwick need to watch out!

They dragged both our suitcases up from the aeroplane and pulled them apart, apologetically funnily enough. They copied a few hotel receipts, repacked out bags and sent us on our way.

Staff were pleasant the whole way through. My partner said the agent they had apologised several times and was repeatedly saying "don't worry about anything". Mine wasn't apologetic, however wasn't at all aggressive or unpleasant and remarked a few times about what a great trip it was.

The worst part of the experience was delaying the leg to JFK by a fair bit. The BA staff were hanging in the background during the whole experience and quickly rushed us to the aeroplane. Interestingly, they were extremely sympathetic. The ground agent suggested we "forget it and get on the drinks now" and the captain who was walking up to find us shook his head and mutter a comment about the yanks.

I'm trying to establish what flagged the secondary. Our customs form obviously had a few countries written on it, but my partner seems to think that (based on the comments of his initial CBP agent) they were expecting us. The Syria thing is weird... No idea how that came up and why it wasn't even mentioned to me.

More importantly...
Is it likely to cause problems in the future or are these generally individual experiences?
 

MEL_Traveller

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It seems obvious the Syria issue is the flag? plus other middle east travel which the USA has assumed might have some connection.

How the flag got there? Who knows? perhaps someone else on their watch list with a similar name?

I think you'll need to wait and see how this affects future travel, but be prepared for it to do so. There is a redress system for travellers who might have been incorrectly flagged. Not sure it it applies to everyone or whether you need to be a US citizen. Or how you go about proving your credentials. Details are on the TSA website i think.
 
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RooFlyer

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The obvious answer is "who knows?" TSA works in mysterious ways.

BUT I reckon it might be something like a (wrong) name match (Syria connection), coupled with your itinerary. Machine puts X and Y together, comes out with Q and you are onto secondary screening.

A work colleague of mine was subjected to secondaries with monotonous regularity (ie 4/6 journeys pa to USA) without travelling anywhere 'suspicious' (ie just OZ-USA). He put up with it for a couple of years and then took the time to complain and follow it up with TSA. From what I gather, TSA didn't give any feedback, but the secondaries stopped to maybe one a year.
 

flychrisfly

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In my experience you are more likely to be flagged for 2ndary screening at US immigration points if you are travelling on a passport that does not align with the departure or destination countries or regions. So Aussies flying from Europe to the US are more likely to be pinged than Europeans or Yanks.
 

N860CR

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Thanks. Time will tell I guess. We're off to Hawaii in a few months so that will be the telling point. Annoyingly, I'll be with some older family members so it's likely to have more of an impact on them. It's a straight SYD-HNL-SYD so at least the itinerary is simple… how many questions can they possibly ask!

I'd be curious to know how the Syria connection came about (they obviously didn't give that away). It seems my partner was the main target for that, however their name is a plain old English one which generally wouldn't scare the yanks (then again, I guess David Hicks is pretty anglo sounding as well!). Neither of us have had any issues entering the US before (the last occasion was about 12 months earlier).
 

juddles

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Re the incorrect Syrian issue, well unfortunately this could be a result of human error in data input. Not all customs/etc databases will have seamless tie-ins with US gov systems. As soon as you introduce a person into the loop via data entry, mistakes occur.

Being one of the most hated countries on the planet, almost always unfairly, I understand their predicament and thus forgive their slightly intrusive and inconvenient processes.
 

N860CR

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I have the same theory. It is what it is and given I love the country so much I certainly won't let it deter me. Maybe I should send them photos of my 4th of July party tomorrow!
 

MEL_Traveller

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Thanks. Time will tell I guess. We're off to Hawaii in a few months so that will be the telling point. Annoyingly, I'll be with some older family members so it's likely to have more of an impact on them. It's a straight SYD-HNL-SYD so at least the itinerary is simple… how many questions can they possibly ask!

I'd be curious to know how the Syria connection came about (they obviously didn't give that away). It seems my partner was the main target for that, however their name is a plain old English one which generally wouldn't scare the yanks (then again, I guess David Hicks is pretty anglo sounding as well!). Neither of us have had any issues entering the US before (the last occasion was about 12 months earlier).

Have you followed the process to see if your issue can be cleared? The TSA offers a redress system for this type of scenario.

Step 2: How to Use DHS TRIP | Homeland Security
 

N860CR

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Haven't bothered at this stage as that seems to be for repeat issues. I'll give them another shot at it and then go from there.
 

Isochronous

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Thanks. Time will tell I guess. We're off to Hawaii in a few months so that will be the telling point. Annoyingly, I'll be with some older family members so it's likely to have more of an impact on them. It's a straight SYD-HNL-SYD so at least the itinerary is simple… how many questions can they possibly ask!

I'd be curious to know how the Syria connection came about (they obviously didn't give that away). It seems my partner was the main target for that, however their name is a plain old English one which generally wouldn't scare the yanks (then again, I guess David Hicks is pretty anglo sounding as well!). Neither of us have had any issues entering the US before (the last occasion was about 12 months earlier).

I think he prefers Mohammed Daoud.
 

N860CR

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Ah that must have been it! The lady couldn't figure out how to spell "Sydney" or "pyramids" either so maybe it's just a case of misreading something.
 
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