Dear SRW Border Lawyers,
I am a Canadian citizen and I currently live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Last week, I was denied entry into the United States at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance at Pearson International Airport. My primary purpose for traveling to the United States was to visit/tour and meet with my friend (and employer) who was also traveling on B-2 visitor status.
At the preclearance, I was extensively questioned by CBP when I explained that my flight was purchased by my employer as a bonus for my work with the production company that he owns in Canada. When asked what I do for a living, I stated I was a TV Producer, and I was then promptly sent to secondary.
After about an hour, I was told I was inadmissible to enter the United States. I was photographed, fingerprinted, and given a document to read and sign. I found the document inaccurate and did not sign it. No other clear information was given to me as to the reason I could not travel other than CBP believed I was being dishonest about my reason for visiting, and they believed I was seeking entry to work. I was informed, however, that I was not banned and that I could attempt to re-enter at a later date.
I went to the Air Canada desk to explain my situation, and was told I was rescheduled on a later flight. I was also informed that as long as I was told I was not banned that I could attempt to reenter the customs area and plead my case to another CBP official. I then checked back in and told a different CBP officer my situation. He said he believed me and would like to send me through, but I had been “flagged” and was required to enter secondary.
During my second visit to secondary, CBP officials said that in order to gain entry I had to bring documents that proved I was going to Los Angeles only to visit and a letter from my friend explaining why he paid for my air travel. After being unable to contact my employer, I cancelled my trip and left the airport.
I have no idea why I was found inadmissible. I am concerned that this ordeal will affect future travel to the United States. What can I do to correct any negative information in my file?
Thank you for your question. Based on what you briefly described, it appears as if you were simply turned away because CBP did not feel that you qualified for B-2 (visitor for pleasure) status, either because they felt that you did not establish that you had strong ties to Canada and/or they felt that you were seeking to enter the U.S. to work (which is not a permissible B-2 activity).
In general, CBP will issue documents or take a sworn statement from you if something more serious than a denial resulted from your encounter. Since no documents were issued and you were told by CBP officials to return when you could provide additional information, there is a good chance that no harmful action was taken. When the government fails to issue explanatory documents or provide adequate reasoning for a denial, it is understandable how you may be hesitant to reapply for admission into the United States. You cannot help but think that your next attempt will undoubtedly result in a permanent bar. Furthermore, it is not helpful when CBP begins to throw around terms like “flagged,” which only heighten your anxiety.
In situations such as yours, when you have little information about why you were denied, one service that we provide for our clients is to submit a FOIA request to see what, if anything, is in their file. FOIA requests can be made to the Department of State, Customs and Border Protection, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Unfortunately, FOIA requests take around 6-8 months to process, so expect a wait once you submit your request. Once we received a client’s complete file, we completely review the file and develop a strategy moving forward that meets the client’s short and long-term goals.
Aside from making a FOIA request, there is little else that can be done other than going back to the border with “stronger ties” and applying for admission. Additionally, due to our proximity to the border, we also offer a service we refer to as “Controlled Admission.” A Controlled Admission allows us to accompany our clients to the border and guide them through the inspection process. We understand that applying for admission can be daunting, but with a Controlled Admission, we are able to personally advocate on behalf of our client at the border should any issues arise.
At this time, the best solution I can offer is to have you schedule a consultation with our office so we can thoroughly discuss what documents/information you presented at the border, about your conversations with CBP and determine a strategy for moving forward. We look forward to speaking with you.