When you enter the United States the first person you meet on arrival is an officer at the US border and immigration control.
The officer inspects your passport and documents, checks that you’re authorized to be in the US, and see if there is a reason which might prohibit you from doing so.
The officers are trained to be skeptical and ask a series of US immigration questions. Their first concern is security and your name will be checked against various computer databases. They are on the lookout for people who might be trying to enter the US for illegal purposes or to stay permanently.
You can be refused entry at the border, returned to your home country, and prohibited from returning for five years. This could happen if they simply don’t believe you, even if your intentions are honest.
During this process, those entering the US have very few rights. You cannot have a lawyer, you cannot make a phone call, you can be asked any question, and your bags can be searched without your permission.
You can only appear before an immigration judge in very cases, such as is you fear persecution in your home country and are seeking protection (asylum).
It is important to be prepared for the immigration interview questions you’ll have to answer. However, the officer is free to ask you just about any question. It is crucial to remain polite and calm throughout the questioning even if you think the questions are inappropriate.
What questions do immigration officers ask? Here are some of the most typical question asked at border control in the US.
Why are you visiting the United States?
If you have a visitor visa, your answer must be ‘visiting’. If you said that you were planning to find a job, or to stay for a long period of time, you would be refused entry.
Where will you be staying?
They want to know that you have a clear idea of what you’ll be doing. If you have no previously arranged places to stay, the officer might question whether you should be allowed in.
Who will you be visiting?
This a another question to check if your plans are legitimate and above board.
How long will you be staying?
Your answer needs to be in-line with your visa. If you have a multiple entry visa, there are restrictions on how long you can stay in one trip. If it’s a single-entry visa, the planned visit must not be longer than that stated on the visa.
How much money are you bringing?
This is to make sure that you’re not exceeding the legal maximum and to ensure that you have enough to cover your costs, and won’t end up being a financial burden on the US government.
Have you visited the US before? Did you remain longer than you were supposed to?
They will make sure that you did not overstay during any previous visits to the US.
The main purpose of the interview is to check that you respect that the intention of the visa and that you won’t cause any problems, or be involved in any illegal activity.
As long as you meet this criteria, the best advice is to just be polite, honest, direct, and give concise answers. Try not to digress from the questions.
Have your documents ready. Be prepared to show your passport and visa (if necessary). This will prevent any further unnecessary delays.
Be prepared to have your luggage searched. make sure you don’t have any illegal, or questionable items such as firearms and illegal drugs. It would also look bad if you had a stack of resumes, or anything which would suggest that you intend to outstay your visa.
The protections and rights of the US constitution do not apply during this process. Immigration officers also have the power to access your phone, laptops, and other digital media. Bear this in mind.