Answers To Your Common Travel Security and Customs Questions

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Traveling today involves passing through a number of checkpoints where you will be screened by security agents as well as customs agents if you plan to enter another country.  Some of the security procedures at these points can be confusing, especially if you do not travel abroad frequently.  Security procedures are followed for many reasons, the main focus of which is to ensure the safety of all travelers and the security of national borders.

Why Do I Have To Take My Shoes Off?

Airport security in most international airports requires that you pass through a check point that includes x-ray machines and a metal detector through which you must pass.  One of the more recent changes to the airport security procedures has been the requirement that all passengers remove their shoes when passing through security.  The shoes are placed in a bin and passed through the x-ray machine,  to allow security personnel to check them for any hidden items that might not be caught by a metal detector.  This is done to prevent the smuggling of dangerous items through security.  More recently, this rule as been amended to exclude young children and seniors who may have difficulty removing their shoes.

Why Do I Need To Take Out My Laptop?

Large electronic devices like laptops need to pass through security checkpoints outside of bags and cases so that they can be accurately x-rayed and the security agents can verify that they are safe and have not been tampered with.  Small devices such as phones, e-readers and music players do not need to be removed from carrying cases to go through the x-ray machine.

Why Can’t I Bring Liquids Through Security?

Liquids are not permitted through airport security in large quantities due to the risk of dangerous chemicals, including those used in incendiary devices.  You are able to pack larger amounts of liquids in your checked luggage should you need to bring them on your trip.  There are a few liquids that are exempt from this rule, including baby formula and breast milk.  You can purchase beverages once you are past the security checkpoint that can be brought on board your flight.

I Haven’t Done Anything, Why Was I Searched?

Airport security and customs agents are both authorized to perform random searches of luggage and passengers to ensure the security of all travelers.  If you are chosen for a search it is likely random and not a result of anything you have said or done, although searches are also done as a result of suspicious behaviour.  The best thing to do when searched is to cooperate fully and allow the security agents to do their job.

Why Do Young Children Require Passports?

Everyone traveling by air to a foreign country is required to carry a passport, no matter their age, to ensure their identity.  Young children must have a passport to prove who they are and that they are traveling with an authorized person.  This can help to prevent the unauthorized removal of a child to another nation.  The only current exception to the passport requirement is for children crossing the U.S./Canada border by land.

Why Do I Go Through U.S. Customs In Canada?

In many Canadian airports, travelers boarding flights to the United States will pass through U.S. Customs before boarding their flight.  These customs preclearance sites are designed to make the flow of passengers into American airports smoother, allowing for more freedom once the flight arrives in the U.S., including re-routing to other airports if required.  Preclearance can also help to prevent passengers from missing connecting flights due to customs delays.  Some other nations also offer preclearance for flights entering the U.S.

Why Can’t Anyone See Me Off At My Gate?

Security regulations require that only crew and ticketed passengers can pass through security checkpoints to the gates.  This rule helps to control the flow of people into the secured areas of the airport, meaning fewer people at the gates and fewer people to be checked by security agents.  Family and friends can see you off before security and greet you on the other side upon your return.

How Do I Know What The Current Rules Are?

Security regulations do change over time, so it’s best to double check before you fly.  Airport and airline websites are a good source of information regarding security procedures and prohibited items.  You should also check the customs laws of the country you plan to visit before you go to ensure you know what to expect when you arrive.