Sunday, September 09, 2007


David Aikman's concern about the "stupidification" of the USA's bureaucracy ( may be supplemented by my experience yesterday.

I should explain that I have a European passport, and that all holders of European passports can visit the USA for up to six weeks without a US visa.

Yesterday, on seeking to check in for my flight to leave the USA and return to Switzerland, I was asked by the lady at Check In (apparently according to TSA regulations) to produce "evidence of onward flight or residence".

I do not normally carry my Swiss Residence Permit with me since the Swiss authorities have it on computer at every port.

In any case, I thought somewhat strange the request that I provide proof of "onward travel or residence", and enquired what would happen if I could not provide such proof. The lady said that I would be denied boarding. I said that this would be tantamount to the airline becoming complicit (if not directly to blame) in my violating US visa requlations and that I could then sue them for that!

However, the lady asked if I really had nothing that could establish Swiss residence.

I recollected that I had with me my Swiss driving licence and produced that. Having inspected it, the lady concerned said that she was unauthorised to consider this as adequate evidence of my Swiss residence and that, in the USA, non-residents often obtain driving licences (I would be surprised if this is so, since my son's experience in the USA so far shows that you can pass a driving test in the USA without residence there, but you cannot even apply for a driving lincence without official residence in the USA).

However, I pointed out to the lady that, if it WAS possible for non-residents to obtain US driving licences even though they were not resident in the USA, this was a problem for the USA, and that she and the Airline/ TSA ought to be aware that it was certainly not possible for non-residents to obtain a Driving Licence in Switzerland.

As you can imagine, this produced an impasse, since she had her orders and they did not include anything about Swiss Driving Licences.

So I suggested she invite her eupervisor's attention to the case. This she kindly did.

The supervisor was an equally or possibly more intelligent person and, in any case, appeared to respond to logic, as I explained the situation to her, emphasising that I was on the RETURN leg of my journey and that I was, after all, seeking to leave the USA, not to enter it.

However, the supervisor too was not AUTHORISED to approve exceptions to the system that is in place, and had to ring New York in order to get their OK before she could allow me to check in.

Dear Mr Aikman, here is my conclusion: sometimes it is not only individuals who are stupid. Entire systems can also be stupid - and stupidifying.

The entire TSA system in the US is in urgent need of review, and the US will continue to lose an enormous amount of goodwill as long as the current "stupid and stupidifying system" is in place. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

featherbone said...

...awfully mean thing to say, but its nice t know that a pointed lack of common sense is not an indian speciality!