What You Should Know When Travelling to the U.S. Important Considerations when Applying for Admission into the United States
Applying for a visa to enter the United States may be a long process for certain foreign nationals. Applying for an E-2 visa, for example, is an intensive process that requires a lot of paperwork (for more information on the E-2 visa, click here). Thus, it is not uncommon for a visa applicant to believe that the immigration process is over once the visa has been approved. However, it is important to note that you will interact with immigration officials when you travel, and your words and actions may have an impact on your immigration status.
The Visa Approval: What is a visa?
A visa is a travel document issued by a government which permits you to present yourself at a port of entry for admission into the United States. Put simply, a visa issued by the U.S. government shows that you have presented the necessary application for entry into the U.S., had your application reviewed and approved by a government officer, and have a legal reason for entering the U.S. That being said, a visa does not give the visa holder a right to enter the U.S., and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) retains the discretion to deny a visa holder entry for any reason. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that going through custom checkpoints is more than a mere formality and you should be prepared to answer questions about your intended purpose for entering the U.S., as well as present supporting documentation if necessary.
Going Through Customs
An individual is “inspected and admitted” when they present themselves to a Customs and Border Patrol Officer at a port of entry in order to enter the United States and are granted permission to enter the Country. Depending on the port of entry (such as driving through a U.S. border crossing or at an airport entering the U.S.), the individual may be asked a series of questions regarding their trip by a CBP officer. Typically, this is a brief interaction meant to confirm that the purpose of your visit matches the visa classification you presented. However, a CBP officer may ask more targeted questions if he/she deems them “relevant” to your visit. You may also be asked to go to secondary inspection where questions may be more intense.
It is crucial to clearly and effectively disclose the purpose of your visit that is consistent with your original visa application. For example, if you are a treaty investor with an E-2 visa, you should disclose that the purpose of your visit is to develop and direct your E-2 company. This is especially important when considering the recent changes to regulations involving what constitutes a “misrepresentation” for purposes of admission into the U.S (for more information on what constitutes a misrepresentation, please click here). While this may seem straightforward, an officer may ask a seemingly innocuous question that could have significant implications on your admission into the U.S. As an example, assume a CBP officer asks if you intend to live in the U.S. permanently, or apply for a green card in the future. These are overly broad questions that ask you to plan several years in the future, but an affirmative answer may cause the officer to determine you have immigrant intent and deny you entry if you are entering on a visa that does not permit immigrant intent. It is important that you understand the parameters of your visa and answer each question honestly.
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