The Terrifying Prospect of Travel to the United StatesInternational air travel is a harrowing process. You’re crammed into an uncomfortable seat, can’t move around much for about 7 hours, fed questionable food on plastic trays and subjected to some of the worst TV imaginable. For Europeans hoping to head to the United States, this process is about to get much more awful. The ever-growing threat of terrorism has prompted countries to step-up their border control, and with good reason. However, it’s not just the airport security staff at the start of your journey that are getting more and more intrusive, you could be subjected to a similar treatment at the other end.
Reports are surfacing that some passengers are being asked to hand over their phones, laptops and other devices and being order to log in to let border agents have a nosy around. Refuse and you could be sent packing. Under Trump’s leering eye, some border agents are even asking passengers questions about their political beliefs. In theory, everyone would like to think that they would stand their ground and refuse to answer, but I’m sure the reality is quite different.
When I first read about these new laws I felt uneasy. On the one hand, I have nothing to hide, but on the other hand, I’d rather not have a stranger poking around my Facebook. Again, not because I have anything to hide, but on the principal that I shouldn’t have to share that with anyone. It’s private. It’s mine. It’s mostly inane conversations, but they’re my inane conversations. Innocently sharing a comic depicting Donald Trump as a trashcan fire with my close circle of friends could now prevent me from entering a country? If I attend an anti-Trump protest and check-in, is that going to get me added to some kind of list?
The United States happens to be one of my favourite travel destinations. I first travelled there as a student and took part in the Camp America scheme. I’ve travelled there every year since, mainly because my boyfriend’s family live in North Carolina. The thought of being unable to visit them or being turned away at the border because of an ill thought out tweet is horrific. So what can passengers heading to the US do to fight this?
In the eyes of immigration solicitors, there’s not much you can do as a non-citizen. You don’t have the right to enter that country, so it’s on you to prove that you should be admitted. If you fail to comply with the border agents requests, they can argue this is noncompliance and refuse entry on these grounds. Just like UK immigration, US immigration is best handled as honestly as possible. Anything you say can quickly be turned against you, so just don’t lie.
If you are nervous about border control poking through your phone, try deleting all of your communication apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger before boarding the flight. Save you pictures in the cloud and erase them from your device. Border control can only demand access to the things you actually have with you, such as data downloaded on your phone, so anything in the cloud that isn’t easily accessible should be safe from prying eyes. Some recommend you change your passwords to something long and unmemorable and make sure you don’t have a password manager on your phone, but this can be seen as trying to hide something, so use with caution. When you’ve cleared border control, make sure you update any passwords you have handed over.