It's always a nerve-wracking thing, customs and immigration. Personally, just the thought of being turned away for having equipment that could be considered the “intent to work” and having to buy a same day plane ticket and drain all your funds plus being banned from a country or getting that black mark on your passport is enough to go to extreme measures.
I first developed my skills when arriving in Mexico immediately after they everyone hardened their passport entry requirements post 9/11. My passport was expired at the time as a result of silly bureaucracy and the United States Postal Service being slow as molasses. My passport was a full month past its expiration and I was on my way to perform as the best man and reverend in my best mates wedding. I couldn't fly direct to Mexico as I was refused at the airport due to the expiration, so I flew to San Diego, walked across the TJ border at midnight without even seeing an immigration officer on either side of the border. I made my way to the airport the next day, where I booked a flight to La Paz, a little in the middle of nowhere Mexico town in the middle of the desert. I had to get to Cabo; there were no direct flights to Cabo from La Paz or connections for that matter. Through TJ security and finally I arrived at a checkpoint booth where my passport was actually checked and double checked because I had no entry stamp. That's when my silver tongue started wagging. Every time the officer would look to check the expired dates I would move my hands, pulling his eyes from my passport and back onto me, I kept rambling about the wedding, the speech I was writing, and other bullshit. Every time the officer would look down again I would drop something towards him or create some kind of misdirection. I was pretty nervous because most countries, including Mexico at the time required 6 months of validity for entry. Finally, triumphant, he stamped me and off I flew to La Paz, where after a very long day of driving in a shitty rental car I arrived in Cabo and preformed my duties and saved the day as the best man willing to jump borders for the guy that had been there for me since the days of the original Nintendo.
As the years passed, my techniques grew, as travel became the center of my life. Then as I became a tattooer, toting tattoo machines through immigration, a sure sign I would be working illegally in their country I started refining this skill of immigration misdirection. It is basically a card trick. It's all acting, you’ve got to pull their eyes to one place while you mind fuck them with your opposite hand with a mental bitch slap. Firstly, you’ve got to be the opposite of the usual, not confident; you’re going to be playing the weakling in this role. Something to keep them from actually looking into your name, numbers and intentions or what’s in your bags and how many drugs you left in your pockets of that one jacket you forgot about.
One of the first keys to this method is picking your line, be it through security or immigration and hope they don't switch em out mid way like a black jack dealer in Vegas leaving you with the mean ole bastard that's at the end of his shift after twenty years of dealing all fucking shitty cards and landing on black jack every time fucking everyone at the table. Our immigration officer in this case, tourists coming through him for entry he has all the power. It is probably why he is still in the job, to have that power over people. So, to pick your line you've gotta look for the middle aged, not too young, not too old to be bitter. Look for a smile, anywhere on the team of people or security or whatever, smile big and ask questions about their day and what needs to come out or off like you’ve never been to the fucking airport before. Creating misdirection. When and if they ask to see something or why you have or you shouldn’t have it, always apologize politely and treat them with respect, which often doesn't happen and most of the time if you've got a dialog going with the whole security team as your shit goes through the X-ray they'll usually treat you much better, especially if you follow the Saintly manifesto and look your best on the plane, I always dress like it's still a privilege to fly. Like they did in the early years of flight. I hate that people show up to fly in a magical machine through the skies dressed in their fucking pajamas. I dress smart on a plane, and it affords me many otherwise refused opportunities as a fully tattooed maniac.
My favorite immigration hustle, and probably my most effective and fantastically ridiculous. I stand in line posture slightly slumped like I'm tired from a long, long flight, and unsure of myself but so excited to have arrived in their country. They've been dealing with the same swarms of people all day and nothing too exciting really happens, they pretty much hate you already. Eventually when you arrive in front of the line, waiting to be called forward, with your bags neatly folded over your shoulder and all your passport and paperwork out, yellow card and a couple of pointless pieces of paper. I often take out some receipts from my wallet to add to the stack of papers to make our little misdirection more dynamic. As you're called to the booth hold the stack of papers neatly and in order at mid navel level so that it will be seen, and assumed that you’re there to not waste the officer’s precious time.
This is when your acting skills come into play. The whole hustle is that as you approach the booth, in the full drama version, when you have everything to lose. You trip and fall, violently, making a thud as your bag smacks on the ground and a loud exhale for dramatic effect. Sometimes I untie one shoe so it looks really good as I trip over it but the point is all that you had neatly prepared for our immigration officer, that he surely noticed as he called you forward is now scattered, papers and passport everywhere, everyone in line behind you rolling their eyes, including the immigration officer. The less dramatic version is just to be a fumbling idiot and drop your papers or hit your head or just appear to be your average traveling kind person that won't do anything bad to their country or economy. Then, with an embarrassed and panicked look on your face you immediately look up and laugh and apologize, first to the officer, next to the people behind as you fumble to gather your papers then approach the booth rushing towards the officer. Secretly our immigration officer is laughing at your misfortune, while also annoyed that you've disrupted the neatly organized system that he or she is the master of. Before he can really look at your details, Mr. immigration is so sick of the derailment of procedure, the fact that you’re a dumb fuck no confidence weakling that he passes you with a quick stamp, surely feeling rushed after the break in his frantic scanning and thumb-printing and photo taking madness they have going on now days. So just to not deal with your shit...bang, stamp.
It works brilliant, when done properly, never fails…well unless of course you suck at it. It's imperative to sell this one hard as fuck for it to work right. As always, confidence is the key.
I highly suggest not doing this hustle in China, or Israel.