What to Expect When Entering the United States

Whether entering the United States by air, land, or sea, immigrants or those traveling with non-immigrant visas to the United States may feel anxious or even afraid of the unknown. Even with a valid visa, some entrants experience hiccups when entering the U.S. Knowing what to expect upon entry into the country can help the process go as smoothly as possible.

Customs and Border Protection

The first person you will meet as you enter the U.S. is an officer of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The officer first checks your passport and other documentation that verifies you have permission to enter the country. If you are entering on an immigrant visa, you need to submit your visa documents in the sealed envelope just as you received it. Understand that CBP officers are trained to protect everyone’s safety and must scrutinize your paperwork.

Prepare to Wait

Officers must verify your identity and permission to be in the country using several different databases. They are looking for travelers using non-immigrant visas to enter the country and stay indefinitely. If the officer suspects you of being deceitful or posing a security threat, they have the right to refuse you entry, return you to your country of origin, and prevent you from returning to the U.S. for up to five years. Understanding these procedures may take time and you may experience long lines and delays.

People arriving from “low risk” countries do have an option to bypass long waits. If you qualify, you can apply to a United States government Trusted Traveler program. Once approved, you can enter the U.S. using a convenient kiosk at designated airports throughout the country. However, it is important to note that if you are carrying certain goods or large amounts of currency, you will need to pass through the main inspection line.

Important Questions to Answer

The CBP officer has the right to ask any question he or she feels is necessary. Remain calm and respectful and answer questions to the best of your ability. Some of the questions you will likely be asked include:

  • Why are you visiting the United States?
  • How long will you be staying?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • Are you visiting anyone?
  • How often do you travel to the United States?
  • Have you been here before and did you stay longer than you were supposed to?

Your Luggage May Be Searched

The CBP officer working with you has the discretion to check your luggage and other personal belongings for anything illegal or questionable. You are not permitted to bring rugs, plants, fruits, or animals into the United States.

If you are detained, or have any other issue that requires legal help, you are urged to contact an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C Assist Clients with Every Step in the Immigration Process

The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. offer compassionate and caring legal counsel for all types of immigration issues. Our firm is unique in that we are dedicated solely to immigration law and carefully monitor rapidly-changing and complex federal immigration policies to best serve our clients. Call 215-925-4435 or complete the convenient online contact form to schedule a consultation today. Our team of multilingual immigration attorneys is proud to serve clients throughout the greater Philadelphia area.