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Avoid confusion at US Port of Entry
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Approximately 28 million nonimmigrants enter or leave the U.S. annually to conduct business, study, visit family, or tour the country. Legitimate visitors are always welcome and the U.S. government is committed to facilitating their travel. However, a critical need for tighter security requires strict entry and exit procedures at the Port of Entry.

Careful planning and preparation by visitors can ensure that the delay based on these procedures is minimal.

If you are a nonimmigrant visitor, here are some things you should do:
  • Before leaving your country, confirm that your passport and visa are still valid for entry into the U.S. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay. The visa must be valid at the time you apply for admission.

  • Check to see that your visa accurately reflects your correct visa classification. If you do not have the correct visa for the stated purpose of your trip to the U.S. you will be denied entry and sent back to the origination point of your flight.

  • When you travel, you should carry some specific documents on you. Do not check them in your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will not be able to show the documents to the immigration officer and, as a result, may not be able to enter the U.S.
Primary Inspection at Port of Entry

Upon arrival at the Port of Entry, Immigration Inspectors conduct initial examinations of all arriving visitors at ‘primary inspection’. The primary inspection is the only inspection needed for those who are ‘clearly admissible’. Although the inspectors on average have only one minute per person, each person is checked through a centralized computer system. The vast majority of individuals are ‘clearly admissible’ and are coming to the U.S. for legitimate purposes with legitimate documents.

Secondary Inspection at Port of Entry

If there appear to be discrepancies in documents presented or answers given, or if there are any other problems, questions, or suspicions that cannot be resolved within the exceedingly brief period allowed for primary inspection, you must be referred to a ‘secondary inspection’ procedure, where a more thorough inquiry may be conducted. Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information.

At secondary inspection, you are not permitted representation or the right to consult with an attorney unless you have become the focus of a criminal investigation and have been taken into custody for that purpose. You do not have a specific right to telephone or contact friends, relatives, or other persons who might assist you. Historically, the great majority of these secondary inspections result in the admission of the person being inspected.

US-VISIT Program

On January 5, 2004, US-VISIT, a comprehensive entry-exit registration system was implemented at all international airports throughout the U.S. Nonimmigrant visitors holding visas will be participating in the program which involves obtaining a scan of two index fingerprints and a digital photograph. US-VISIT is part of a continuum of security measures that begins overseas, when a person applies for a visa to travel to the U.S, and continues on through entry and exit at U.S. air and seaports and, eventually, at land border crossings. The US-VISIT program is meant to:
  • Enhance the security of U.S. citizens and visitors

  • Expedite legitimate travel and trade

  • Ensure the integrity of the immigration system

  • Safeguard the personal privacy of nonimmigrant visitors
Exit Procedures

Under the US-VISIT program, a departure confirmation program using automated kiosks is being tested at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at selected Miami Seaport cruise line terminals. Currently, if you leave from either of these ports, you are required to confirm your departure at the kiosk. You will see automated, self-service kiosks where you can ‘check out’ by scanning your visa or passport and repeating the simple inkless fingerprinting process. These are compared to the prints and information taken at the time of your entry to ensure that the person leaving is the person who entered the U.S.

By combining these entry and exit processes, and by securely storing the travel records, the U.S. Government has been working to ensure the integrity of the borders and the privacy and well-being of citizens and visitors.


At VisaPro, we appreciate the efforts being taken by the U.S. government to ensure the privacy of citizens and visitors. We are constantly keeping track of all the developments related to entry-exit procedures and will continue to update you on the latest happenings.

Contact VisaPro if you have any questions regarding visas, or need help in filing with the USCIS or Consulates. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.

We cover the latest happenings on work visas in Immigration Monitor, our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe to Immigration Monitor.

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