Saturday, May 23, 2009

What you always wanted to know about passport control . . .

... but were afraid to ask.

Or in my case, had no idea who to ask. But I needed to know so I didn't end up with a plot in which Demetrios or Anny got arrested for entering a country illegally.

Ordinarily this would not be a problem because ordinarily when you send your characters on commercial flights or regularly scheduled public transportation between two countries, it's understood that they do what they're supposed to do (unless you're writing a thriller in which case they might very well not).

But when they're hopping on and off a private sailboat, you want to know -- or at least I do -- that they are not breaking laws that are going to complicate the plot somewhere down the road when the customs and immigration people turn up.

So . . . I went searching.

And I found the Schengen Agreement.

The Schengen Agreement is going to solve all my plot problems. Or at least all the ones that would have occurred if customs and immigration had shown up.

They won't because of the Schengen Agreement which was first enacted in 1985 among five countries in Europe who created a common border of immigration and within it travel was conducted as if it were a single country. More countries joined this pact, which is not, interestingly enough, coterminous with the EU (some EU countries, like the UK and Ireland are not in it and other non-EU countries, like Norway and Iceland, are in it). There are 25 countries currently participating in this agreement.

The dark blue countries on the map above are Schengen participating countries. The purple countries who have either opted-out, like UK and Ireland, or they are, like Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania, working on their own external border controls. When they are on a par with the others in the pact, apparently they, too, will be admitted to the Schengen Agreement.

Demetrios and Anny are thrilled to learn about the Schengen Agreement. They had no idea starring in a book would be so educational.

While they are not deeply into political science, Anny at least has certain governmental responsibilities that would make her aware of this (pity she didn't tell me). In any case, they are glad it exists because it's going to make grocery shopping much easier.

I'm delighted because they are complicating their own lives quite enough in this book. They don't need the help of a passel of government bureacracies!

In fact, chances are you will never find mention of customs and immigration issues in this book. As long as they don't have to comply with any border control, there's no need to.

But just between us -- those of you who read this blog will have the straight "behind the book" stuff.

You will now know about the Schengen Agreement.

And every time Anny and Demetrios stop to buy groceries or have a meal or walk around a village, you can nod sagely and say to yourselves, "And they can do that because of the Schengen Agreement."

See? You learn something new every day.

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Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Yes, I knew about the agreement. It means that when you enter the Agreement countries from the UK, you do haveto go through border control. This can be a major pain if your plane is late, the gate is two terminals away AND the person in front of you has three million items which interest customs...
With yachts and such, there used to be a place in each harbor where you'd show your passport, same thing for private airports.

24 May, 2009  
Anonymous Rachel said...

Dear Anne,

really useful information, especially when zipping all over the place on private jets etc.

I've learnt something new, so thanks!


24 May, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Yes, Michelle, last year when I went to Cannes, I had to go through passport control going into and out of France from UK.

And yes, Rach, isn't it useful to learn how the other half lives so we can write our books!


24 May, 2009  
Anonymous CurtissAnn said...

Fascinating! Thanks for widening my very small world.

CurtissAnn, who has little desire to go anywhere anymore, now that she has her Alabama paradise. :)

01 June, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Curtiss Ann, Your new place in Alabama looks absolutely fantastic. I've been in AL every June for the last three years, but won't be going this year. Hope to get there next year. It's a gorgeous place.

Enjoy your new home!

01 June, 2009  

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