Challenges with Border Guards - RE the Laws

This is the reason we have no interest in doing sits in the USA. We are Australian. Too many horror stories for us to take the risk.

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The problem is the only stories that get publicity is the horror stories. This is our third (or fourth ) time sitting in North America and as detailed in one of my previous posts we have had no bother coming through customs.
Staying with friends
Road trip
First night in a hotel
Smile and answer the questions but nothing else


If you mean immigration, an older white couple is much less likely to be grilled at the border about their reasons for traveling. Immigration probably won’t suspect that you’re coming in to find a job, so they just ask the standard questions.

People in different demographics won’t necessarily be so lucky as to have “no bother,” not because they’re less clever than you, but because they’re part of a subset of travelers that immigration views as likely to overstay. If you don’t fit that profile, they just wave you through with general questions, like why you’re here and how long you intend to stay.


Often times it will really depends on the officer you get. I have an US and EU passport which I use interchangeably depending where I am arriving to. Both are almost full of stamps and visas from different countries. You could clearly see I’ve travelled extensively but I still occasionally get some very unpleasant questioning by a diligent immigration officer. This past year that happened during trips to Germany and Switzerland. Although I was admitted that definitely left a bitter taste and I doubt I will be visiting these countries soon. I really like the UK border electronic gates. I had to enter and exit UK three times this year and I am yet to talk to an immigration officer.

Difference between Germany and other Schengen countries would be quite random, I think. And the external border with Switzerland is hardly checked.

This spring I was in Basel, on a sit in Weil am Rhein, walking distance to France and to Switzerland, so for ten days I crossed that border several times a day (on foot, by bicycle, by tram) and I never showed my passport. And yesterday I entered Switzerland by train - again, nobody asked for any passport.

For some reason the Scandinavians check everybody: first the Danes, then the Swedes. It means longer trains stops at the border. Do they really believe that Denmark is more attractive than Switzerland?

Edit: And today I cycled into France, by accident, I did not have my passport with me. Had lunch in Ferney in a property that was once owned by Voltaire. No problem at the Swiss borderpost at the edge of the airport either. I cycled back to the sit through a tunnel underneath the runway.


Yes, my “interrogation” occurred only at the Geneva airport. (Another place I will avoid in the future). I know that road you mentioned under the runway and I have crossed it many time without any issues. Once in a blue moon the custom officers will get super strict and start stopping everyone and create a massive traffic jam in the process.

The THS letter does a real disservice to its members and I would NEVER carry it with me. It basically says, “our lawyers won’t write this letter for us because they know this is this is not legal but our opinion is that our members should be allowed into your country despite the law.” Sorry, THS, but your opinion that the law shouldn’t apply to your members is best kept to yourself.

I have just started sitting for TH in my native US, and having a great time. I’m thinking of branching out to European sits next spring. I understand that border control/customs is tightening up very soon. The few times I’ve entered England or France,(2013-2019) I just said I was traveling as a tourist and listed the countries I’d visit, and I was through. I’m hearing rumors, at least, of having to provide reservations, addresses, proof of funds…I’m concerned about just what to say about a sit, about the terms which would make it sound like “work”–I know that even volunteer work requires a visa in some countries.
I’d appreciate any advice on how to present my reasons for being in the country.
Thanks very much!

Just continue to do this. Do not mention a sit.

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As above- just say you are visiting friends/being a tourist. If you going first to a hotel give that address. If going directly to a sit give that address and say they are friends & don’t forget to tell the hosts that too so they can back up the ‘story’ if needed!
Housesitting is a grey area. Some border controls may regard it as ‘work’ and prevent entry. Don’t risk it!


I’ve travelled to Europe three times in the last year, once of pet sitting, the other two not. Once into Amsterdam, out from Lisbon; another in and out of Milan, and, most recently, Into London and out of Geneva. I was never asked for anything more than the cursory, what are you here for? To which I always respond tourism. I’m a pretty old white woman, so, that works in my favor.

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Thanks very much for these replies! I posted the question before I had found this thread, and all of this is helpful information.

Have never been stopped at the border of any Schengen country for anything more than a regular “why are you here?”
“How long will you stay?” as either a Brit or a Turk visitor. We’ve been in and out more times than we can count. Have contact details of your sit, numbers for the owners (friends), the full address & evidence of funds for your stay and that should be enough.

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Just took the Eurostar back to London from Paris. There was a passport check by French border agents, without questions, and then eGate-type scanning by the Brits (no human agent).

On arrival in London, some border patrol agents stood around and eyed passengers as we made our way out, but there was no interaction.

I hold a U.S. passport and the French border agent handed my passport to (presumably) a supervisor, who proceeded to take a closer look, apparently scanning my passport with his phone. That took maybe 10 or 15 seconds. But there were no questions or other interaction, other than the first agent wishing me a good trip.

I’m ethnically Chinese and we have many common names across a large population, so that might’ve been the reason for the supervising officer taking a closer look at my passport.

I’m not the nervous type, so if they’d asked me Qs, I would’ve said I was a tourist. I’m doing a couple of sits and have had some free days in between.

The passport check heading from London to Paris was uneventful.


BTW, on those border screening videos that @LIQ and I’ve watched separately, some agents will sometimes ask what you plan to sightsee, if you say you’re a tourist. So you’d better have decent answers in that case. Presumably, they ask to screen out people with sketchy purposes for visits. Like the videos showed job hunters, smugglers, prostitutes, people looking to cross into countries to get married for residency, etc.

No @Ashleynov, UK immigration has the right (and if you doubt that, they will request a customs officer to do the search & they absolutely have the right - worldwide I imagine).
And how would refusing permission assist your case exactly?

@Saltrams I must have taken over 5000 flights in my life and NEVER not once has a border guard asked to look at my laptop or device. You seem to be massively concerned about something which is close to zero percent of happening. I prefer not to live my life in fear of things so unlikely and I’ll continue to petsit visiting wonderful new countries and experiencing this amazing lifestyle 🫶🏼

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@Ashleynov you are quite incorrect despite how many flights you may have taken in your life. Over 5000??? Goodness, you must have/had a high flying job to do that many, but that isn’t in question here. You have just never come to the attention of border security anywhere, unlike a fellow Aussie traveller not long ago who DID and was put on the first flight back to Oz. And yes, they DID check her phone and laptop which they are legally obliged to do if they feel it is necessary. I think you are Australian, this is a quote from the ABF (Australian Border Force)…

Under the Customs Act, ABF officers can force people to hand over their passcodes to allow a phone search, as part of their powers to examine people’s belongings at the border, including documents and photos.

A spokesperson for the ABF said people can be questioned and their phone searched “if they suspect the person may "be of interest for immigration, customs, biosecurity, health, law-enforcement or national security reasons” on mobile phones and laptops. There was no legal obligation for people to hand over their passcodes, but if a person refused to comply with the request and a border force officer considered there to be “a risk to the border”, then border force could seize the device for further examination.

Just because it hasn’t happened to you personally doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to others, it does, and it IS the law - worldwide. Nobody is asking you to live in fear or stop travelling, goodness I take more risks than most people I know and certainly don’t fret over it. I have been travelling full-time for four years through more borders than I dare to count, and hundreds more before that. The point in question is, it can and DOES happen - to many people, and it IS lawful at border control.


Smiley, that’s exactly how we deal with this. We’re tourists, staying in hotels, and visiting friends. All very true. I make sure to have all necessary contact information handy just in case they need to know. We’ve never said we’ll be house/pet sitting.

I’m not frightened or obsessed @Ashleynov. This is a long thread with a lot of history so you may be forgiven for not having studied it in detail. I was a UK Immigration Officer, one of those who do the interrogation (or did, I’m retired). My reply to your comment was merely by way of setting you straight in the legal sense.
It’s great that you have managed to carry out a career of pet sitting without interference from pesky law enforcers such as myself!