USCIS Is Denying Pending Forms I-131 for Abandonment Due to International Travel
August 20, 2017
USCIS has began denying Form I-131 advance parole applications for abandonment in instances where the applicant has traveled abroad during the pendency of the application. The pending Form I-131 applications are being denied even if the applicant has a separate valid advance parole document or a valid H, K, L, or V visa to return to the United States.
This marks a break from a long-standing previous USCIS policy. In the past, USCIS has approved advance parole renewal applications for individuals who travel abroad during the pendency of the application with a valid Advance Parole Document or a valid H, K, L, or V visa.
Now, if you leave the US before your Advance Parole application is approved, it is considered abandoned. You may still re-enter using your nonimmigrant visa, but you would have to file a new Advance Parole application, and stay in the US while it is pending (about 3 months), or until your Application for Adjustment of Status is approved.
April 15, 2017
Recently, the searches of travelers’ personal electronic devices have become more frequent at US airports. While the chances that you are singled out for inspection and requested to submit your electronic devices to a search by CBP agents remain minimal, it may be prudent to take the following steps:
- If you are coming in for a short stay, consider leaving non-essential devices behind.
- Be aware of the content of your social media account pages.
- Delete any sensitive personal or company data from your devices prior to travel
- Discuss moving sensitive company data to a cloud, to be retrieved once you have passed inspection in the US.
Finally, you always have the right to refuse submitting to a search by an immigration official, or disclose any information, including passwords for your devices and accounts. However, a refusal may and probably will result in the denial of admission to the US.
Inspection of Electronic Devices (April 12th, 2017)
CBP Releases Statistics on Electronic Device Searches (April 11th, 2017)
Travelling to the US
April 5, 2017
The recent developments in US immigration enforcement are making many prospective travelers nervous about being able to complete their planned trips to the United States. It is important to keep in mind that Trump’s executive orders have not changed how the vast majority of travelers are inspected when they seek to enter the US.
There are important issues to consider for all travelers as you prepare for your trip to the US.
The US. immigration laws do not guarantee anyone except the US citizens the right to enter the country. Holding a U.S. visa or an ESTA merely lets you seek entry. For example, a US visa stamp in your passport authorizes the airlines to allow you to board a flight to the US, and informs the border control personnel about the stated purpose of your visit. Admission is never guaranteed.
A Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer interviewing you at the airport does not have to prove that you are doing something wrong before they can deny admission, on the contrary, the burden is on you to establish compliance. There are several legal reasons someone may be deemed “inadmissible,” including misrepresenting the purpose of a visit, admission to a crime, lack of sufficient documentation, previous violations of immigration law, etc.
Whatever the outcome of your admission interview, you have the right to expect courtesy and professionalism from any CBP personnel you deal with. You should at a minimum ask for an opportunity to explain any perceived discrepancy in your paperwork, or wrongdoing on your part, but try to avoid escalating the situation, never resort to sarcasm and in general just be nice. Most of these officers are not out to get you, and will let you in once they are satisfied with your explanations.
What to Expect
As you know, most travelers are able to pass the CBP inspection with only minimal interaction with an officer. Most likely, you’d be asked about the purpose of your visit, and as long as your answer matches your visa, you’ll be waived through. However, sometimes an officer feels that more detailed questioning is necessary, or you may just randomly be picked for a secondary inspection.
For secondary inspection, you’d be placed in a waiting room, and subsequently interviewed at length about the purpose of your visit, your job, your past travels, your contacts and/or relatives in the U.S., or anything else CBP is interested in. You may be asked to let a CBP officer examine your laptop, phone or personal effects. They may even ask to see the contents of your wallet, or ask to search your clothing.
You don’t have to submit to any searches and may refuse, but keep in mind that it may give CBP grounds to refuse to admit you to the U.S. As unpleasant as this is, often a CBP officer is just looking to verify your own story -- for example, they might want to call the client you say you are coming to meet, to verify the date of the meeting.
In relatively few cases, CBP might feel that you probably should be admitted, but there is not enough evidence to corroborate your story. They may then grant a deferred inspection -- you’ll be allowed in, but will have to appear later (usually in a matter of days, sometimes weeks) at the CBP office to provide further evidence.
Withdrawal of Application for Admission
In some cases, a CBP officer may decide that through no fault of your own, or by honest mistake you have obtained a wrong visa, or did not realize the purpose of your visit to the US does not correspond to your visa. In such cases you may be offered an option to voluntarily withdraw your application for admission. While this would prevent you from entering the U.S., it does not really place a stain on your record with the immigration authorities, and does not make it substantially more difficult to apply for a visa in the future. Bottom line -- if presented with a choice between withdrawal of application for admission or expedited removal, you should choose the former.
For business travelers coming in on an ESTA or a B-1 visa, I strongly recommend reviewing the list of permissible business-related activities in the U.S. If you are in doubt about whether your status in the US authorizes you to engage in a particular activity, please contact me before your trip.
Detention at an Airport
Because you have not yet been admitted to the US, if you are placed in secondary inspection, or otherwise delayed, you do not have the same rights as you normally would. There is no right to an attorney, or even to a phone call. However, you can always ask to notify your US contact that you are delayed, and in most cases, you’ll be able to call anyone you like. An attorney may call the local CBP office to intervene on your behalf, but it is really up to the local CBP supervisor to take the call or not.