Be prepared for a border search with these tips

This guest post was written by Richard Douglas. His blog is called Too Many Secrets.

If you travel a lot, you should prepare yourself to be searched and asked a few questions. Mike wrote about laptop and cell phone search and seizure before the Paris meet-up.

The US Customs and Border Service has posted their official policy here.

It happens all the time and it is nothing to be alarmed about. Many countries have broad search authority, not just the US Border Service – try entering and departing from Havana, Cuba, with a digital camera and a laptop. 😉

Here are a few simple tips that should cut down your odds of being searched at border crossings, US or otherwise.

1. Dress well. Put on a shirt, pants, jacket etc and look like you’re an important guy. If you keep wearing those t-shirts and shorts no one will take you seriously.

2. Eye contact. Make eye contact with the border agent and smile. I guarantee you that if you cannot and do not maintain eye contact, they will be suspicious of you. And if you have that t-shirt and shorts on, they’ll pull you over for sure.

3. Be polite. If you are a jerk, they will search you. Yep, I see the jerks get taken into that back room all the time.

4. Pick a good job title and reason for travel. Even though you are a domainer or web developer, the border agents have no idea what that means. So speak their language and tell them you are an executive at an internet company or the President of XYZ Company etc. And tell them you are traveling on business to meet with clients, meet with the bank etc. Don’t tell them you were doing body shots all weekend with two sisters you met on the beach.

5. Protect your data. Don’t carry data you don’t need. Remotely access your email or docs or spreadsheets. There are lots of solutions from simple to rock solid secure to do this.

6. Use encryption. If you have to carry data or if you acquire data while you are away on your trip (say from two sisters you met on the beach) then use strong encryption for your email, hard disk, USB drive, flash card etc. By strong encryption, I mean 4096 bits, not 768 or 1024.

It is pretty common to get distracted when crossing borders while you look for your ID, fill out the paperwork, try and remember what to declare etc. I think you will find that these simple tips will make your border crossings a little easier.


  1. MHB says


    What you mean don’t tell them “body shots all weekend with two sisters you met on the beach.”

    What else is vacation for?

    Seriously , you think you have a better chance not getting screwed with saying your doing business than your on vacation?

  2. says


    In my experience, once they have you on in their computer traveling all the time, you have no choice but to say you are on business. If you tell them you are on vacation, they know that no one gets 10 vacations a year.

    – Richard.

  3. says

    Installing FREAR into people works very well – do not question authority – The President or otherwise in charge is (at least wants so be) GOD – what will be next if you fart in public you will be arested for activating deadly gasses with intention to harm the world – ha, ha.

  4. says

    Are you sure that encryption is a good method to avoid people getting to your data? If I remember correctly US laws require encryption programs to build in backdoors or additional keys in order to be legal for use/sale within the US. And I do think there was also a requirement for you to be able to provide authorities with the encryption keys if they request them from you.

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