Detained in the US for “Visiting Thailand Too Much”

August 14, 2013
By

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This morning I had a text from an American friend that had been visiting me recently. He had taught English here for nearly two years. While here he had done a few side trips to places like Cambodia. He then went back to further his education in the States. Then last month he came back to Thailand to visit before heading to Nepal for a photo assignment. The other day he flew back to the States. His problem occurred at the DHS office in Canada. These are run and owned by the US Customs. They took one look at his passport and were immediately suspicious. They basically told him that he had been “visiting Thailand too much”. In fact he had only been here twice, but he had done a side trip to Cambodia so I guess that didn’t help. Then he also had a Nepalese visa in his passport. What they then did was do a thorough search of both his clothes and bags. They even went through his laptop and copied his hard disks. They told him that he “may be human trafficking or smuggling drugs”. After going through all his pictures and also his bank books that he had on him, they finally let him go. But they made it clear to him that they had put his passport on a watch list now.  No apology or anything for stopping him. No apology also for making him miss his connecting flight.

I have heard stories like this before for people travelling to the US. I just didn’t realize that they did this for their own nationals too. This is a good lesson for people to be aware about. Be careful about what you have on your laptop and memory card in your camera. They could search everything. The pictures of your kids taking a bath maybe interpreted in a different way by immigration officers. The same goes for buying fake goods or pirated DVDs while on holiday in Thailand. Many people have said that in America and Europe these items have been confiscated and they were given a big fine. It’s not worth it so don’t buy any fake goods while on holiday in Thailand. And don’t copy any pirated movies onto your laptop. And certainly don’t buy any porno DVDs here in Thailand to take home. You have been warned. Don’t take this lightly.

21 Responses to Detained in the US for “Visiting Thailand Too Much”

  1. August 14, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    What happens if I go home wearing my fake Levis?

    Will they make me strip and get a taxi in my underpants?

  2. Lexis
    August 15, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Two words: Police State
    Just one more reason why a sane person does not visit the US anymore.

  3. Flavzzz
    August 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

    With all the visas I have on my passport I think I’m good to go to Guantanamo.

    • claaay
      August 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      T-shirt:

      (Front)
      “With all the visas I have on my passport I think I’m…”

      (Back)
      “GOOD TO GO TO GUANTANAMO”

  4. August 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    …and this illustrates why I don’t want to go back home. Damn! “Land of the Free”. Such a cruel joke now.

    • Baht
      August 17, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      @Greg: You do realise that Thailand is also known as “Land of the free”?

  5. Earl
    August 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Amazing story. Thanks for sharing this, Richard.

  6. August 19, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Great article and something all of us living outside the U.S. ought to know.

    I’ve had similar problems. I worked for French multinationals for most of my career as an IT manager and project leader. (I live in France). Took me to many interesting places and I have all kinds of visas in my passport (India, China and so on). That has raised eyebrows in the US, UK, and Canada.

    What was even more annoying to me was that I usually fly in my blue jeans and comfie shoes and I’m a lady of a certain age getting perilously close to the big 50. So when I explained what I did for a living and why I traveled so much they didn’t believe me. Sometimes I had to haul out the travel schedule prepared by my assistant and a business card to prove that I really did work in the IT industry for a French company. In another case I was in the US and paid for a ticket with my French debit card – that got me searched very thoroughly in the Portland airport.

    Post 911 travel is such a delight.

  7. DJ
    August 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Where is America?

  8. August 25, 2013 at 9:13 am

    America. Home of the free. Land of the brave. Wonder when that went wrong, if it were ever true. No Santa Claus either, I’m sure…

  9. August 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Customs asked everybody in line how long have they been abroad. Everybody else said two weeks and I said three years. Where? Thailand. I was then bought out the line and had every single bag searched. When they saw the porn he was like “Oh, DVDs” and that was it. I was then let go and my father told me my best friend was murdered while I was on the plane. Ain’t that America?

  10. Mike
    August 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Yah they used to do the same thing to me. I was a taxi driver and coming to Thailand to many times so they told me I fit the criteria of a drug dealer..told them sorry wrong guy. Yes I was always careful of what I was carrying.DVD s, to many of the same item, what ever. Once they meet me as I was coming off the plane with the dog. Twice I was asked in Japan to see my passport and I asked why and they told me MY CoUNTY wanted to see it. I asked were they waiting for me and they said they could not tell me. Hum… anyway I live out side of THe good old USA. I not hate my country but looking in now I see its not all what it thinks it is.

  11. steve
    August 27, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Well, here’s something to read thru’ for all you guys who think America is cool :
    http://varnull.adityamukerjee.net/post/59021412512/dont-fly-during-ramadan

  12. David
    August 27, 2013 at 7:43 am

    The same thing happened to me on my way back to the states from Thailand. The immigration officer thumbed through my passport and commented that I sure get around (Thailand,India, Nepal, Amsterdam). He then asked me what I do and I said I’m retired. He then asked me again, what do you do? I said well, I do a lot of photography. He then asked me, what kind of photography? I might as well have said kiddie porn because he didn’t seem to be listening to a word I was saying. By the time they finished with me, my luggage and it’s contents were scattered over three tables and my laptop, camera, photo cards,computer discs were in another office being dissected. They found nothing of course, I’m clean as a whistle.
    An hour or so later they let me go, only after making me re-pack my previously tightly packed and organised bags. No explanation, no apology for making me miss my connector, nada. One of the officers had the nerve to say, have a nice day…..grrrrrrrr!

  13. Cemon
    August 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Well now you know how it feels to be a minority

  14. Graham
    August 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Did they use to do this sort of thing in the Soviet Union.

  15. oscar dukie
    August 30, 2013 at 3:01 am

    I wonder if this policy applies to africa?

  16. Jorgen
    August 30, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    I stopped visiting that country more than a decade ago, after I was stopped in Chicago en route from Hong Kong to London (Yes, the wrong way, I know, but I had a free ticket with United), and my bags that had been checked all the way through were offloaded and everything checked thoroughly. Stories like the one above just confirm that the country should be avoided at any cost. It looks more and more like the Soviet Union. Weird, isn’t it?

  17. JLR
    September 1, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Haven’t been to the USA for 4 years. Debating if I should now.

  18. Paul
    September 2, 2013 at 4:20 am

    Well, the positive side of europe: so many countries. In Holland they are notorious for checking at customs when you arrive from Thailand. But the law now says you can have 2 fake items with you (if you have 3 or more, everything gets confiscated and you stay with 0). But if you would have a stop-over in for instance Austria and then fly to Amsterdam… your set free. You’re already in Europe, so no checking at Schiphol Airport.

  19. Gheriz
    September 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Ditto for Canada. Also a police state.

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