Top Ten Questions on Problems Entering and Leaving the U.S
1. What is the U.S. Visit Program?
Starting January 2004 all visitors and non-immigrants must register their photograph and fingerprints through this program. It is quick for now. As your passport is reviewed the officer will ask you to take a picture and place your fingers on a pad. This creates a new data base which is matched to the picture and fingerprints of the person who applied for the visa at the consulate. Take good pictures please! There is a second match to the data base which has all criminal, customs, deportation and visa overstay records. You will be required to go to secondary, “the little room” if there is any information that links you to these data bases. Please note that all airlines are required to report their manifestos, ie the people on the plane, to DHS and the information is updated within 24 hours. Your departure is noted within 24 hours, so watch out.
2. Do I need to Register When I Leave?
Yes, the U.S. Visit implements the new mandatory entry/exit program. You are required to register as you leave the U.S. with photograph and fingerprints. This part is not a formal counter, it is a booth, which does not have a person to stop you and force you to do it. Please do not overlook this step. It is mandatory and failure to comply will be have severe repercussions. At the moment only Miami International Airport has this system. By the end of 2004 it will be everywhere.
3. What Can I Expect if I Travel on my Advance Parole?
You will automatically go to secondary, which means you will have to wait for 20 to 90 minutes in the “little room”. Officers need to check that your Advance parole was really issued, as there is a lot of fraud. Unfortunately, you may have to wait long periods if there are a lot of people in the room. The cases are reviewed in the order they arrived and if someone has a complex case right before you… have patience. Take a book and a bottle of water. Be prepared to wait. You can check travel times and peak flight arrivals by going to the Miami airport web site, and you can avoid traveling on these flights.
Be prepared. Have your I-485 receipt, and your I-140 approval notice if you have changed jobs after the 180 days of filing the I-485 have passed. Have updated letters and pay-stubs from your employer to ensure you can prove where you work. Make sure you have your ETA approval and that you explain that you are working in the same or similar type of job.
4. What do I do if I Have Been Arrested?
You can expect to go to secondary every time. Always carry certified copies of your final disposition, the court orders and evidence that you compiled with them. Carry a letter from your attorney that explains why you are admissible. It may not help, but it will contain the law so a supervisor can make an informed decision. Ask to call your lawyer if you have problems. A cellular phone is useful. Don’t travel on weekends or outside office hours; you need your lawyer available.
5. What if there is someone who has the same or Similar Name to me with an Arrest Record?
These are difficult cases. You will be put into secondary and can expect to wait for a longer period of time as the office researches your case. As the U.S. Visit program expands it will be easier for the officer to determine that you don’t look like that person, or your bio-graphics don’t match. However, there is little to be done for now. Homeland Security requires that each person be reviewed if they could be a potential risk to security.
6. What if I filed for an Extension of a B-l/B-2 Visa and it was not Adjudicated Before I Left?
This is a huge problem. If you leave before the extension is adjudicated, the application will be denied because you abandoned it, you left. That means you have overstayed your period of authorized stay, because you were only allowed to stay in the U.S. for the time stated on your I-94 (B-1, B-2). When you re-enter the officer has the obligation to cancel your visa and send you home. Disaster! However, there is a memorandum we can provide you with that may help.
There are no easy answers. The simple one is don’t ask for an extension unless you can wait for Immigration to approve it, i.e. 2-6 months. We are working on solutions but it is difficult.
7. What if I lose my I-94 and don’t present it on departure?
It really doesn’t matter anymore, as the manifesto of the airline and the exit registry are what will really register your departure.
8. What do I do if Feel I have Been Treated Badly by the Officers on Entry?
It is very important to let Customs and Border Protection (CBP) know about your experience in secondary. There are commentary cards available to memorialize your experience on the spot. As you sit in secondary fill out the customer comment card, you have the time. If you do not feel comfortable using the commentary card, go to the complaint System at the website www.cbp.gov. The direct link of the site is http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/customerservice/handle_complaints.xml There is a complaint form, or e-mail to email@example.com. It is IMPERATIVE you make valid complaints known to CBP. We are fighting statistics with you, real people experiences.
9. Can I Reenter on an Indefinite Multiple Entry B-l/B-2 Visa Forever?
No, the visa is only valid for 10 years. If the visa was issued over ten years ago you will be allowed to re-enter the U.S. ONCE. Then you must get another visa at your consulate.
10. What if the Immigration officer makes a mistake on stamping my I-94?
Sometimes officers make mistakes. Officers can stamp a B-1 instead of an L-2, or give an E-2 an entry for less than 2 years, or stamp your H-1B for less than the duration of the visa on the I-797. It is very important that you check the stamp in your passport and on your I-94 to ensure that it is correct. If you see a mistake, try to correct it immediately with the officer. If you are intimidated please call us immediately and come to our office so we can correct it. Always check your I-94, it is your legal status in this country.