Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"You are not, nor have ever been, on record as a criminal suspect"

It's official!  The US Department of Homeland Security doesn't think I'm a criminal.

My last two trips to the United States have been marred by delays when passing through Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

On both occasions, the agent spent a long time studying his computer screen and my passport before calling for an "escort" and having me taken to a room for further screening.

This screening consisted of my being forced to wait for nearly an hour until my name was called and I was told I was free to go - with no explanation for why I was kept.

Speaking to some colleagues on a discussion forum at work, it transpired I was not the only person this had happened to.  There were various theories on why it happened and how to stop it from happening again.  The most obvious approach - stop going to America - had simplicity on its side but was likely to be somewhat career limiting for somebody who works in the IT industry.

The next best alternative was to try reasoning with the system. But how?

After much digging, I stumbled upon the "Traveler Redress Inquiry Program" (TRIP).

I filled out an online form, printed it out, attached photocopies of the documents they asked for and sent it off.  And promptly forgot all about it.

I don't even recall when I sent it - it was many months ago, though.

I returned home from work today to find a letter from the Department of Homeland Security. It appears that they have investigated my case and, although they cannot guarantee I'll never be stopped again (the stopping appears to be a result of their matching algorithms), I will be permitted to show this letter to the agent and ask that they read it.  No guarantees, of course... but at least it's something.

I'll be in Orlando with work at the start of April so I guess I'll soon get a chance to try it out!

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