The Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") Inspection Process
All foreign nationals seeking admission into the United States are subject to inspection by Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) Officers.
What can you expect at a Port of Entry Inspection?
CBP at the Airport
When arriving at an airport, the airline will provide all travelers with documents to complete while still in route to the United States. All travelers will be required to complete a Customs Declaration Form 6059B. Individuals seeking admission who are not U.S. citizens will be given a Form-I94 (white), Arrival/Departure Record to complete. Travelers who obtained authorization to travel via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization will not need to complete any additional forms.
Upon arrival, airline personnel will show you the inspection area. You will line up in an inspection line and then speak with a CBP officer. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should use lines marked for non-citizens. In some cases, you may be asked to proceed to a second screening point with your belongings for additional questioning by CBP Officers.
During the inspection process, CBP Officers must determine the following: (1) why you are seeking entry into the U.S., (2) what documents you require, (3) if you have those documents, and (4) how long you should be allowed to initially stay in the U.S. These determinations usually take less than a minute, but may take longer. If you are allowed to proceed, the officer will stamp your passport and customs declaration form and issue you a completed From I-94. A completed Form I-94 will show your immigration classification and how long you are allowed to stay in the U.S.
As a foreign national, you may be denied entry into the U.S. There are many reasons why you may be denied entry. You will either be placed in detention, or temporarily held until a return flight can be arranged for you. In some cases, CBP Officers may not be able to determine if you should be able to enter the U.S. 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 U.S. for further processing.
CBP at a Land Port-of Entry
When you arrive at a land border port-of-entry by automobile, you will undergo the same process. When you approach the inspection area you will line up in lane where an inspection booth is open. When it is your turn, you will slowly approach the inspection booth where one officer will conduct a primary inspection. In some cases, 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 U.S., you may either be sent for further Customs inspection or immediately allowed to proceed on your trip.
CBP at a Sea Port-of-Entry
The inspection process at a sea port-of-entry is similar to the airport process if inspection facilities are available. Otherwise passengers will be instructed where to report for inspection on board the vessel.