As an immigrant or non-immigrant, you will be entering the United States through one of the border points. This means the first person you meet on arrival, no matter if you come in by air, sea or land, will be a Customs and Border Protection officer (commonly named CBP).
It might be a good idea to discuss with an immigration attorney before you enter the US, but in general, you should know what to expect and how to be prepared for your short custom interview. Below are a few tips.
What will happen at the Customs’ Office?
The CBP is entitled to inspect your legal documents. Their first aim is to establish if you were given legal permission to enter the US, and to try and establish if there is reason that they might prohibit you from entering US soil. Make sure all your visa paperwork is ready and in order.
One thing to keep in mind is that these officers are trained to be skeptical so be ready for “the look.” Their main concern is security so, sometimes delays may occur, while they are checking your name against several computer databases. A border officer will also be on the lookout for people who are trying to obtain an illegal or permanent stay in the US through a non-immigrant or tourist visa.
Sometimes, even if your papers are in order, if you are behaving erratically and you are not firmly answering their questions, these people are trained to consider you are lying for some reason and they may refuse you entry, start procedures for your return to your home country, even prohibit you from entering US soil for five years.
Another important thing is that you need to be prepared for a luggage search. A border official is entitled to check your personal possessions. This is why you need to make sure not to bring in any questionable items, such as illegal drugs or firearms. Any dangerous or illegal products found on you could bring about immediate removal.
What kind of questions will you be asked?
Any immigration attorney will tell you that border officers are trained to ask you any question they like. Keep this in mind and try to remain calm and polite.
A few of the questions you may be asked are listed below:
Why are you visiting the United States?
For this, your answer must be the same as the one on the visa. Don’t ever say you are coming to the US to find a job, if you are coming on a visitor visa. They will make sure to put you on the next flight home.
Where will you be living? / Who will you be visiting?
A border officer will want to make sure you have clear plans for what you will be doing in the United States. If you have no previously arranged places to stay, the officer might question whether you should be allowed in.
How long will you be staying?
Even if your visa says you are allowed multiple entry or one year, you may not be allowed to stay that long, so the I-94 card the officer will be handing to you will clearly set up a date for your departure.
Also expect other questions such as: “How much money are you bringing?” or “Have you visited the United States before?”