The holiday season is approaching and many have already begun their travels around the country to visit with family and friends. And while most U.S. citizens worry about airport delays or weather conditions, immigrants are often faced with even more challenges during this time of year.
When immigrants travel, especially back and forth across the U.S. and Mexican border, they should prepare themselves for the long list of questions usually asked by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers. Also, don't forget to bring along your appropriate paperwork, such as a valid travel visa.
Even if you have all the appropriate documentation with you when you travel, a CBP officer has the discretion to stop a traveler from entry at the U.S. border if she believes that you are being dishonest or observes any other questionable behavior.
As the majority of immigrants know, the entire immigration process can be overwhelming. That is why it is in your best interest to review the most commonly asked questions by CBP officers in order to ensure that you are as prepared as possible when traveling this holiday season.
- Why are you visiting the United States? First, your answer must match the information listed on your visa. For example, if you have a work visa but tell the officer that you are in the U.S. as a tourist, you will likely face consequences. Next, the officer must be convinced that you have no intention of committing any crimes while in the U.S.
- Who will you be visiting? This question is primarily asked in order to ensure that you are not coming to the U.S. for an illegal purpose. It is also asked to verify that you have a distinct reason for coming to the U.S.
- Where will you be staying? This question allows the officer to observe whether you have pre-arranged plans regarding your stay. If you answer clearly and unambiguously, it is less likely that the officer will be concerned as to your intentions while visiting the U.S.
- How long will you be staying? Your answer will indicate to the officer that you do not plan on staying in the U.S. longer than what is permitted according to your visa. This also ensures that you are familiar with the parameters of your particular visa.
- How much money are you bringing in? The reason this question is asked is simple: the officer wants to make sure that you will be able to cover your expenses while you are in the U.S.
- Have you visited the U.S. before? If yes, did you stay longer than you were supposed to? If your response indicates that you have visited the U.S. previously and that you have stayed longer than you were supposed to, you may face dire consequences. The law states that an individual staying 180 to 364 days longer than what was permitted by his visa is barred from returning to the U.S. for three years. If you answer that you have previously remained in the U.S. for an entire year (or more) past the terms of your visa, you will be prohibited from returning to the U.S. for ten years.
- How often do you come to the United States? If your response to the officer seems to indicate that you are using your visa as a method for living in the U.S., the officer is likely to deny your current request for entry.
A CBP officer is allowed to ask these and other questions to ensure you are visiting the U.S. legally. An individual is not allowed to have an attorney present during the question and answer period, so it is very important that you are ready for these and any other questions that may be asked.
If you have questions related to you or a loved one's immigration status and need to speak to an immigration professional, contact the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green to connect with an experienced immigration attorney located right here in Tucson.