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Border Crossing Issues

Generally, to enter the United States you must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visa allows a foreign citizen, to travel to the US and request permission to enter. The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2), or combination of both (B-1/B-2). Applicants for visitor visas must show that they qualify under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The law presumes that every visitor visa applicant is an intending to become an immigrant (wanting to reside in the US permanently). Therefore, applicants for visitor visas must overcome this presumption by demonstrating that:
  • The purpose of their trip is to enter the U.S. for business, pleasure, or medical treatment
  • That they plan to remain for a specific, limited period
  • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the United States
  • Evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad
  • That they have a residence outside the U.S. as well as other binding ties that will ensure their return abroad at the end of the visit.

Business Visitor Visas (B-1) - For example, if the purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or conference on specific dates, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract, then a business visitor visa (B-1) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.

Pleasure, Tourism, Medical Treatment - Visitor Visas (B-2) - if the purpose of your planned travel is recreational, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, then a visitor visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of visa for your travel.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) - enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the US for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are required to apply for authorization though the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), are screened at their port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s.

The Inspection Process
All persons arriving at a port-of-entry to the United States are subject to inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers. CBP Officers will conduct the Immigration, Customs and Agriculture components of the Inspections process. If a traveler has health concerns, he/she will be referred to a Public Health Officer for a separate screening.
When arriving at an airport, the airline will give all non-US citizens a form to complete while still en route to the United States, either Form I-94 (white), Arrival/Departure Record, or Form I-94W (green), Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form and Customs Declaration form 6059B. The forms ask for basic identification information and the address where you will stay in the United States. Upon arrival, the airline personnel will show you to the inspection area. You will queue up in an inspection line and then speak with a CBP officer. If you are a U.S. citizen, special lines may be available to you. You may be asked to proceed to a second screening point with your belongings for additional questioning by CBP Officers. If you are a U.S. citizen, the officer will ask you for your passport, verify your citizenship, and then welcome you back to the United States. You will then proceed to the Customs inspection area. If you are an alien, the CBP Officer must determine why you are coming to the US, what documents are required, if you have those documents, and how long you will be allowed to stay in the US. If you are allowed to proceed, the officer will stamp your passport and customs declaration form and issue a completed Form I-94 to you. A completed form I-94 will show what immigration classification you were given and how long you are allowed to stay.
At a land border port-of-entry you will undergo the same general process. One officer will conduct the primary inspection on the vehicle lane. That officer may send you for further review or issuance of needed papers to a secondary inspection area. Once a determination is made to allow you into the United States, you may be sent for further Customs inspection or immediately allowed to proceed on your trip.
On June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, by land or sea, will be required to present one of the travel documents listed below. Many of these documents are already available, and obtaining one now will ensure that you are ready on June 1, 2009, when they will be required.
U.S. PassportThis is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea.
U.S. Passport CardThis is a new, limited-use travel document that fits in your wallet and costs less than a U.S. Passport. It is only valid for travel by land and sea.
Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)Several states and Canadian provinces are issuing this driver’s license or identification document that denotes identity and citizenship. It is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea.
Trusted Traveler Program CardsNEXUS, SENTRI or FAST enrollment cards can speed your entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The cards are valid for use at land or sea; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.
Special GroupsInformation for Children, Groups of Children, Native Americans, "Closed Loop" Cruises, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, U.S. Military, Merchant Mariners, Ferries and Small Boats, and Boaters. FOR MORE DETAILS VISIT:


Denials under this section are not permanent. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Your friend, relative or student should contact the embassy or consulate to find out about reapplication procedures. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably. If you are an alien, CBP Officers may decide that you should not be permitted to enter the United States. There are many reasons why this might happen (see INA SS 212(a)). You will either be placed in detention, or temporarily held until return flight arrangements can be made. If you have a visa, it may be cancelled. In certain instances, Officer(s) may not be able to decide if you should be allowed into the United States or are Inadmissible. In this case, your inspection may be deferred (postponed), and you will be instructed to go to another office located near your intended destination in the United States for further processing.
INADMISSABLE PERSONS There are many reasons why a person may be ineligible to enter the United States. Some reasons are:
  • If you have a communicable disease,
  • If you have a criminal record for crimes of moral turpitude,
  • For possession of or trafficking in a controlled substance,
  • If you have any involvement with terrorism or terrorist organizations (no waivers can be approved for this category),
  • If you have trafficked in persons,
  • If you have been involved in money laundering,
  • If you might become a public charge because of limited financial resources,
  • If you have been previously removed (deported) or have overstayed a previous period of admission to the United States
This list is not comprehensive and you should contact us to make certain of your ineligibly. The list of crimes of moral turpitude that are reasons for exclusion from the United States is also quite detailed. The most common types of crimes involving moral turpitude that would make you inadmissible are murder, manslaughter, rape, theft, bribery, forgery, aggravated battery, prostitution, and fraud. At this time, driving under the influence, breaking and entering, disorderly conduct and simple assault are not considered crimes that make a person inadmissible to the United States.


Depending on the reason for your inadmissibility into the United States, and if you are a citizens of Canada, or you are a nonimmigrant with appropriate documents who subsequently becomes inadmissible, you may be eligible to apply in advance of your travel directly to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for a temporary waiver of inadmissibility. The waiver application process can be lengthy (up to a year). Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant and Inadmissible Canadian Information