What To Expect When You Come to the U.S. as an Immigrant

Personal Injury Law Firm

Coming to another country at any point can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. You may be nervous that you forgot some form of documentation or that you do not have all the right IDs with you. However, when you are traveling to the United States as an immigrant, you want to be properly prepared for what you can expect when you arrive, whether it is by land, sea, or air. Below, you will find out more information on the types of documentation you should expect to bring with you, who you can expect to meet when you get to the U.S., and what type of screening process you may have to go through. While this is not an exhaustive list, it should help you become more prepared.

What will happen first?

One of the first things that will likely happen is a greeting from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. He or she will look at the different documents you’re carrying on you, go over your passport, and ensure that the government has actually granted you permission to come to the U.S. During this inspection, the CBP officer will also run a background check to see if there is any information on your record that would prohibit you from entering (this may be some type of crime on your record). So, if you are traveling to the U.S. on an immigrant visa, you should have your sealed (and unopened) envelope that contains your visa documents to give the CBP officer.

How long does this usually take?

Unfortunately, because of how thorough they check your history, there is no set time you should expect to finish. You might encounter lengthy delays as the CBP officer runs your name through multiple databases. If for any reason the CBP officer believes you are lying or believes that you are attempting to gain access into the U.S. for illegal purposes or through someone else’s identification, they can turn you away, send you home, and ensure you cannot return to the U.S. for five years.

Will they search your luggage?

Expect the border officials to go through your luggage and any possessions you brought with you. With this expectation, you should know not to bring:

  • Books on Immigration. something that goes against your visa status. Anything that shows you are planning to stay in the U.S. longer than your visa status could force someone to believe you want to stay longer than allowed.
  • Illegal Items. A firearm, bottle of alcohol, or even food substance that is legal in your country is not necessarily legal in the United States. If you have something in your bag or on your person that is illegal or questionable, this may mean the CBP officer sends you home.

Do I have rights?

Because you are not a U.S. citizen, you do not have the same rights as one. For example, police can interrogate you without an attorney and officers can search your possessions without your permission.

If you have any further questions on what may happen when you enter the U.S. for the first time as an immigrant or if you would like to speak with a lawyer you can trust, like an immigration attorney in DC from The Federal Practice Group, contact a law firm now.