Passport pirouette: Feeling criminal in Heathrow

Landing, for once, in an English-speaking country, I really didn’t expect to have any problems at passport control. Two British airport employees who seemed to be watching the queue (I’m not sure of their real function!) were quite literally having a cup of tea and I felt like all was right with the world.

But then it was my turn at the immigration counter. All of a sudden, I was being quizzed. More than you’d expect. Why? It turned out that my new passport was the problem. I’d run out of pages in my previous passport and applied for a new one via the Australian embassy in Berlin, since I was living in Germany at the time. What I hadn’t realised (and wouldn’t have worried about if I had) was that for some reason, the Berlin embassy had then shipped my application over to London and my new Australian passport actually stated that it had been issued in London. What the British immigration officers didn’t understand was how I could have a new passport issued in London if I hadn’t actually been to London in the last few years. Fair point.

It took some explaining, and some random computer checking on their part, to explain my way out of this one. They let me in. And they let me keep my record of unpleasant experiences at Heathrow intact.


  1. Wow, can’t have been pleasant for you but I’m reassured that they picked up the discrepancy and that drinking tea wasn’t the sole purpose of their presence! 🙂 Hope you enjoy your UK stay.

  2. I think those passport control people watch everyone carefully to see if they can catch the nervous or fidgety ones, as they might be the ones avoiding something! They scare me even though I´ve never done anything outside the law.

  3. They scare me too…or maybe I’m just paranoid 😛 They asked me all sorts of nosy questions…”I’m staying with a friend.” “is this “friend” your BOYFRIEND?” and I’m thinking…would they not let me in if he was?? well, whatever. I made it through too, thank goodness 😛

  4. @ Jenny – I did enjoy my stay – and it wasn’t as bad as entering the US!

    @ Sami – yes I agree – a bit like when you realise you’ve got something in your handbag that *could* have come from the shop you’re in and you feel like a criminal even though you bought it somewhere else!

    @ Anon – not very pleasant, is it! You start to wonder if you would be better off telling lies … even though you’re not doing anything wrong!

  5. oh! this reminds me of the time Jules and I entered the UK via ferry from Holland. We had had some problems before leaving Singapore (jules left his passport in a taxi…long story) only a few days before going off on our big back packing European adventure. He had to get an emergency passport so we could still go…
    when we arrived in the UK we were stopped for ages as we tried to explain that his passport was legitimate. The emergency passport did look forged as it had an actual photo (not a computer image) in it! how old fashioned!!
    we eventually made it through but gosh it was stressful!
    that passport expires next year but will always give us great memories!

  6. *giggles* Oh you poor thing! Well, at least Heathrow is consistent?! I’ll never forget the time two years ago when I went to an airport in America with some family friends and one of the teenage girls had forgotten there was a Swiss Army Knife in the bottom of her backpack. She was taken away for questioning for an entire hour! *shudder*

  7. @ Rach – oh dear! – I can just imagine the drama with an emergency passport! Probably it is lucky you were going to the UK where at least you could explain it all in your language. It reminds me I had troubles getting into Russia once because my passport photo showed me wearing glasses but I had contacts in – they tried to tell me it wasn’t the same person!

    @ Hannah – oh dear – I have heard some horror stories about being questioned by US immigration officials – when really there should be no need for it – surely a teenage girl shouldn’t be a real suspect?!

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