Standing in line waiting for your turn at the immigration counter in an airport is a nerve-wracking affair. Will you be questioned? Your mind starts running and you remember the snack you saved from the airline food…is this allowed? Maybe you’ve been watching too many Border Security TV shows.

Chances are that they will just take a cursory look at your passport, stamp it, and wave you in. To make sure that the experience is as painless as possible, we have some tips for you so you can breeze through customs and immigration.

Passport and Documents

Customs Immigration Traveler
Fill up the Customs’ departure card while in the queue to save time.

Most countries will require that your passport is valid for at least the next six months. You may not even be allowed to board your flight if your passport is set to expire shortly. Make sure to renew your passport before the six-month period. Another document that often gets asked for (depending on your nationality and where you are travelling to/from) is your company ID or working visa. This has a two-pronged purpose: it validates the identity information on your passport as well as proves that you have a source of income. 

Migrant Workers

Customs Immigration Traveler
Don’t put your documents in your check-in bag.

For people going abroad to work, different countries have differing documentary requirements. For example, in the Philippines, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) requires both the Pre-Departure Overseas Seminar (PDOS) Certificate and the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) aside from your passport and visa. Meanwhile, the Indian government wants Indian nationals with Emigration Check Required (ECR) category of passports to secure an “Emigration Clearance” from the office of the Protector of Emigrants (POE) for some countries of destination. Have these documents with you when you queue at the immigration counter and ensure you check exactly what you need ahead of time.

Goods and Food

Before travelling to another country, familiarize yourself with baggage restrictions and what goods you can bring in. This is important particularly for those who are on medication. You might be tempted to bring in a lot of your brand of cigarettes if you are a smoker and you’re travelling long-term. Be mindful on the limits of the amount you can bring. If you go over the limit or bring a restricted item, you can get penalized or questioned at customs. Take for example Oscar winner Hillary Swank, who got an instant fine of $NZ200 for bringing in an apple and an orange into New Zealand. A big clue is the disembarkation card that airline staff will distribute before landing. If it is on the list, there is a restriction. Don’t attempt to bring into the country more than what is allowed, then you won’t need to declare anything to customs. 

We hope that these tips made customs and immigration a breeze for your travels or move overseas. For more of our advice, check out some of the other articles on our blog!