All individuals entering the U.S. at international ports of entry are inspected by US Customs & Border Protection (CBP).  This occurs at either the arrival airport in the U.S., Pre-Flight Inspection if flying from most Canadian airports, or border crossings into the U.S. from either Canada or Mexico.  This is an inspection to determine the individual’s eligibility to legally enter the U.S., as well as to confirm any necessary customs declarations or possession of contraband.

Because of the unique nature of the border or port of entry inspection and the concern over national security, U.S. law gives CBP officers wide latitude in how to conduct the inspection, including verbal questioning, inspection of luggage, and, lately, even inspection and retention of electronic devices. Usually, the inspection process is quick and painless. However, since the administration’s recent attempts to ban certain individuals from entering the country in the name of national security, CBP officers have reportedly been reaching beyond the normal procedures to search people’s phones and compel individuals to unlock their smartphone as a part of the search. Not only are border agents doing cursory searches, as in thumbing through an individual’s phone, but in some instances, they will dig deeper and download the contents of the device onto their own computer system and run forensic search algorithms to reveal all the data, including deleted files that have not yet been overwritten and metadata that the owner did not know was there. Case law for this kind of search is undeveloped, so an individual’s rights against this invasion of privacy are not clear until challenged in court.

Below are some FAQs to help you through this process if you face additional scrutiny.  These questions and responses have been formulated with the best information available, but you should know that in any given situation, CBP officers may expand the inspection process subjecting you or your possessions to additional scrutiny.

Continue Reading FAQs for Entering the U.S.—Entry Inspection and Electronic Devices

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske released the agency’s summer travel tips for international travelers.

Among the tips include:

  • Passports are now required for ALL outbound international air travel
  • Complete your Customs Declaration form (6059b) before you arrive at CBP’s processing facilities
  • Double check rules on agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and even firewood before traveling to the United States

Safe travels!

In an update to our post from January 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday further restricted visa-free travel to the U.S. for people who have traveled to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. If visited in the last five years, since March 1, 2011, an otherwise eligible individual is precluded from using the Visa Waiver Program to enter the U.S. for business or tourism. Those travelers to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen must apply for a nonimmigrant visitor’s visa at a U.S. consular post abroad, where they will be subject to the normal vetting process for U.S. visas. The restriction on people who have visited Libya, Somalia, and Yemen come as part of DHS’s implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act that was enacted as part of the year-end spending bill. Continue Reading Visa-Waiver Program Further Restricted for Travelers of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” into law. On January 21, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) began implementing changes to the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”). There are two main changes to the program: individuals who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria since March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions) and/or are dual nationals of one of those countries and a VWP country are, with limited exceptions, no longer eligible for the VWP. However, these individuals may apply for a nonimmigrant visitor’s visa at a US consular post abroad, where they will be subject to the normal vetting process for US visas. Continue Reading CBP releases FAQ on Visa Waiver Program: Rule Changes

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske announced an expansion of the Global Entry program to include UK citizens at the World Travel Market in London.  UK citizens can register beginning December 3.

The opening of Global Entry to all qualified UK citizens follows a pilot program from May 2011 that saw over 1,400 UK citizens enrolled. According to the CBP, almost five million UK citizens visit the US each year and more than 125,000 of these traveled to the US four or more times per year.

Continue Reading CBP Announces the Expansion of Global Entry to UK Citizens

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Public Safety Canada, and the Secretariat of Governance of Mexico announced the planned expansion of the existing trusted traveler programs. This expansion is the first step toward the creation of a North American Trusted Traveler network and will be rolled out at the beginning of 2016.

The agreement signed by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts stipulates:

  • Mexican nationals who are members of Mexico’s Viajero Confiable program will be able to apply for the US – Canada NEXUS trusted traveler program
  • Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS will be able to apply for Viajero Confiable

US citizens are already eligible to apply for the NEXUS and Viajero Confiable trusted traveler programs through existing partnerships between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Public Safety Canada and Mexico’s National Institute of Migration.

The expansion of these programs should create increased mobility and efficiency for current members. It will also provide an attractive option for NAFTA-based employees, given the growth of business throughout North America.  This new network will provide a collaborative-based traveler model system for other regionally clustered countries, particularly given the heightened international cross-border exchanges for business and cultural transactions.

For additional information on US Trusted Traveler programs, click here.

Written by Maryanne Kline

In April 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) introduced electronic Forms I-94, enabling nonimmigrants entering the U.S. via air and sea to easily access their Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Records online.  As of  May 1, 2014, this electronic system has been expanded to provide access to an individual’s full arrival and departure history for the past five years. Continue Reading U.S. Customs and Border Protection Rolling Out Electronic Travel Records

According to a travel update issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Agency is forging ahead with a plan to eliminate the issuance of Forms I-94 to individuals arriving at air and sea ports of entry. Forms I-94 will continue to be issued at land borders. For those arriving by air and by sea, the proposed admission procedures will consist of a passport stamp but no other documentation.  Continue Reading Phase-out of Form I-94 around the corner