The Keys to Successful Anonymous Travel through Airports
At Amicus, we have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through airport screening upon arrival.
If at all possible use the Passport self-service kiosks that are part of the Automated Passport Control system found at many Airports. Travelers scan their passport, take a photograph using the kiosk, and answer a series of questions confirming flight and biographic information. Once passengers have completed the series of questions and submitted their Customs declaration form, a receipt will be issued then bring their passport and receipt to a Customs/Passport Officer to finalize their inspection for entry into the country. Kiosks are currently in operation at more than 80 airports around the world.
The procedures and techniques used by customs agents at international airports to determine which passengers are sent to “secondary screening”, where they are questioned in detail about their travel and lodging plans, and their luggage and personal effects are thoroughly examined.
#1 - STAY CALM
In an almost overstatement of the obvious, the first and likely most important element of remaining covert and undetected when passing through customs and other security checkpoints at international airports is to “appear calm.” For instance, security officials at airports like Ferihegy Airport in Budapest utilize one-way mirrors and closed-circuit TVs to screen incoming passengers for indications of nervousness or reserved panic.
#2 - KEEP YOUR STORY SIMPLE
We believe it is best to take a “less is more” approach. We advise our clients to say as little as possible and to keep their answers simple, short, and succinct -- especially when presented with the two most frequently asked questions at customs in just about every country on the planet:
- What is the purpose for your trip?
In nearly every situation, this is often the first question travelers will be asked by a customs officer. This question has nothing to do with a traveler's vacation plans - instead, the purpose of a trip could change the type of visa required for entering the country, or subject travelers to different regulations prior to entering. As a matter of best practice, always be honest with customs officials about the purpose of a trip. A dishonest answer could result in detention, or even expulsion from a foreign country.
- How long do you intend to stay?
This common question has less to do with a traveler's vacation plans, and everything to do with national security. Customs and border protection officers often ask this question to assess if travelers qualify to enter the country, and if the visa they are holding is the correct one for their stay. While some countries allow for a 90-day stay with an on-arrival visa, others require travelers to apply for their visa well in advance.
Depending on the planned length of visit, savvy travelers should be prepared to explain the length of their visit. Short-term stays of less than a week and long-term visits of more than a month usually receive a follow-up from the customs officer about their activities during their visit. Smart travelers should prepare to answer truthfully about their activities while traveling.
- Where are you staying?
Unlike the first two questions, customs officers often ask about housing arrangements to ensure a traveler is not a risk. Travelers giving very generic answers including "at a hostel, "with a friend," or "at an Airbnb" may raise red flags for officers. As a result, travelers may get even more questions about their visit, and could be detained until their travel plans are verified.
Smart travelers prepare with the name of the hotel they are staying at, or the address of the friends, family members, or Airbnb property they will be staying with. In addition, those who are planning to stay in a hotel or hostel should always keep a confirmation of travel plans available. Having detailed stay information on hand can help travelers clear customs faster and with less frustration.
- What is your occupation?
This common customs question has less to do with a fascination of global occupations, and more to do with analyzing risk. When a customs officer asks about occupation, it is not only an indicator of their financial capacities while in a given country, but also a method to analyze behavior. Travelers who cannot give an answer quickly or directly may be directed to additional questioning by customs. Smart travelers answer the occupation question directly and quickly, and are prepared to understand that certain occupations (like "journalist" and "law enforcement") could result in follow-up questions.
- Do you have anything to declare?
Depending on where a traveler is entering, certain items may be restricted or prohibited at your destination. When entering the United States, baked and prepared goods can be brought back without inspection. However, meats, fruits, and vegetables may be subject to closer inspection or confiscation.
Some embargoed goods may also not be brought back, depending on the country. For travel into the U.S., this includes many items originating from Cuba, Burma, Iran, or Sudan. Always keep a list of your items purchased on your person when going through the checkpoint, and be sure to declare all goods purchased abroad that you are bringing back with you.
Airport security officials around the world have made a practice of also using social media to verify a passenger’s story. They check profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites to check the validity of someone’s identity against their legend/story.
Amicus will establish and show you how to maintain a profile consistent with their covert identities on all major social media websites.
How hard is it to leave the USA being a fugitive from the law?
After 2010, American citizens are required to have a passport to return from overseas travel destinations, so the traditional means of leaving the country (airports, cruise lines, border crossings, etc) will often require that show a valid US passport before you are allowed to board and depart. Unless you have a passport (which most Americans do not) you are unlikely to leave by those routes.
- As noted by several answers on here, the overwhelming majority of the US/Canadian border is unguarded - Remote areas in Maine, Minnesota and North Dakota have no border coverage and fugitives can simply stroll into Canada. When you are in Canada, unless you LOOK or act like an American, you are unlikely to attract attention to yourself and if you are discreet, you could live there undisturbed for many years. Also, despite what one answer on here claims about the ability to “work under the table” being restricted in Canada, there are numerous refugees in the country who work in construction, baby sitting and bars who are not on the company owner’s books.
- The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos islands, the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands are all within 100 miles of US territory - Traveling to them by sea isn’t a difficult task and many people can simply come ashore, head into an urban area and blend in with tourists, traveling businessmen or expatriates. Here, unlike Canada, the employment opportunities will be minimal as they are relatively poor nations and territories. The Dominican Republic poses a special challenge for a fugitive who does not speak Spanish and the crime levels there make it a place of questionable safety.
- If you are a wealthy or a skilled pilot, you can either charter a flight out of the country or fly an aircraft out yourself - One “open secret” of the US borders is that few aircraft flying OUT of the United States are rarely challenged. In 5-10 hours, you could be well outside of the United States and in another country. From there, you can either stay in hiding or you can travel to another nation.
- If you are wealthy or a skilled sailor/navigator can either charter a yacht or sail a boat out of the US - As with flying, fewer vessels leaving US waters are searched than those arriving or transitingthem would be. Within several hours (See #2) to several weeks, you will arrive at a foreign country and you’ll have the choice to remain there or travel from there to another location.
- Mexico - The “court of last resort.” Anybody can get into Mexico. However, traveling further than 25 miles into the country requires a travel pass issued by the Mexican government. If you are already wanted and in a fugitive database, this may prove to be a problem. If you are on the run, but have yet to be entered into the system, you’ll be given the pass and you can travel deeper into the country. Mexico, however, is not the ideal location for an American fugitive. The levels of xenophobia in the nation are very high and unless you are fluent in Mexican Spanish, you’ll immediately be recognized as being a foreigner and you should expect a visit from the authorities. Also, the drug cartel violence has rendered much of the country too dangerous to travel into or through by foreigners. Unless you are extremely wealthy and can hide in one of the nation’s heavily protected enclaves or you are Latino (preferably of Mexican ancestry) and can speak fluent Mexican Spanish, it would be pointless to attempt to hide there.
Side Note: There are anywhere from 400-500k worth of fugitives being sought INSIDE the United States. These are people who are wanted for crimes ranging from multiple misdemeanors to felony murder and many of them go for years or even decades without being apprehended.
Unless there is a pressing need to flee the United States, careful consideration might be given to remaining at home and simply leading an exceptionally low-key lifestyle. This is especially true for a fugitive who has no assets and who cannot speak any foreign languages.