Passport control, sometimes known as border control, is typically found at airports, seaports, and other places where travelers may enter or leave a country. Employees of a government's immigration department known as passport control officers review the travel documents presented by citizens, residents, and other travelers to determine whether they have the right to enter the country. In some places, border control also operates in the departure areas of airports and seaports in order to make sure that those who are leaving the country have appropriate documentation as well. This process can vary significantly by country, so it generally behooves travelers to familiarize themselves with the practices of the countries that they will be visiting.
Virtually all countries have strict regulations regarding allowing noncitizens to enter their borders. The primary way of doing this is to examine travelers' passports and entry documents. In airports or seaports, travelers will typically meet with border control agents in a designated area of the building. A common set-up is for travelers who are citizens or permanent residents of a country to be processed in a separate section of passport control than noncitizens.
When citizens of a country pass through border control, they will typically be asked to present their passports as well as any immigration documents required by the country. These documents may ask the citizen for information as to where he traveled and the purpose of his travel. Passport control agents may ask similar questions during the entry interview as well. In some countries, citizens may be able to register for special programs that allow them to pass through passport control more quickly by submitting to an advance background check and then scanning their passports through kiosks placed in the border control area.
Noncitizens will typically undergo a more rigorous passport control process. If the noncitizen needs a visa to enter the country, the border control agent will typically examine the visa and may ask to see additional documentation, such as letters from schools in support of student visas. The noncitizen may be subject to additional questioning about her reasons for visiting the country, including how long she plans to stay and whether she has made arrangements for accommodation, and may be asked for proof that she has enough money to care for herself while in the country. Border control agents may also ask to see a return ticket in order to establish that a traveler intends to return to her own country after her current travels.