Tips for Entering the United States

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Tips for Entering the United States

When you arrive at a U.S. border post, you will be subjected to two types of inspection by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP). BCBP agents will inspect your documents and decide if you are permitted to enter the country. (This inspection was formerly performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). However, the INS was abolished in 2003, and its functions were transferred to various other agencies, including the BCBP). In addition, BCBP agents will check your luggage to see if you are bringing any illegal or banned materials into the country. (This inspection was formerly performed by the U.S. Customs Service, whose duties were also transferred to the BCBP in 2003).

Note: Certain foreign nationals who leave the United States and then wish to return may be subject to additional procedures.

Don't try to make light of the airport or border inspection process. It is serious and the government inspectors do not take their jobs lightly, even if they appear to be informal. To avoid the prying eyes of immigration and customs inspectors, remember to:

Make sure nothing that you bring to the United States appears to contradict the visa status you have been given. If you are coming as a tourist, don't bring along a book on how to immigrate to the United States or a stack of resumes. You might have these things because you have future plans to apply for immigration, but the INS won't see it that way.

Do not bring illegal or questionable items through customs. It may be legal in your country to carry a firearm (a gun). It is not legal to bring it into the United States and, if you have one in your luggage, it could lead to your immediate exclusion. Make sure you are not carrying other illegal or questionable items in your luggage, like illegal drugs, pornography or plants, fruits or animals that are not allowed into the United States.

Pay attention to your appearance. Dress plainly and neatly. Someone coming to the United States on a tourist visa dressed in old, ragged clothes might raise questions from INS officials on how they can afford their vacation. Someone coming from a poor country dressed too richly might raise other questions on how they can afford their lifestyle. Someone coming for a short stay with a lot of luggage might also raise concerns.

Be polite and calm. It may be hard after a long airplane flight, but a little politeness can go a long way. If you seem likeable, you are more likely to get the benefit of any doubts the INS inspector might have about you.

Have all your required papers. If you lack any of the required documentation, you will be detained, even if you are otherwise entitled to enter the United States. Lacking papers will be a red flag to the INS official to take a closer look at you.

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