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What happens when you arrive in the United States?

Every day more than one million people go through customs in the United States. Both Americans and foreigners must complete a customs form. Foreign travelers will also be required to complete Form I-94. On the other hand, foreign travelers who are part of the Visa Exemption Program (ESTA) are exempt from this formality.

For immigration control, travelers are divided into two groups, one for US citizens and one for foreign travelers, including holders of a permanent residence card, known as a green card. At this point, the traveler passes a Border Protection and Customs officer who checks the identity documents; You must provide the residence / residence address in the United States, passport, visa and when necessary additional documentation as for students and holders of a K-1 visa. The agent also takes fingerprints and a digital photo ID will also be recorded.

CBP officers usually take a few minutes to decide whether to give final permission to enter the country. Some airports have automated terminals to facilitate the entry of citizens and holders of ESTA authorization, where it will be possible to carry out the entry formalities in an automated way.

Those traveling with visas will receive form I-94 with some important annotations that define the traveler’s classification and the date up to which he is allowed to stay in the country.

In addition, immigration officers may carry out additional checks, thus prolonging the waiting period for the traveler. A more thorough inspection is possible in some cases, and will take place in a separate waiting room from the main entrance hall.

Those who arrive by sea follow the same process. On the other hand in this case the steps are sometimes done in the boat itself.

The same applies to those arriving by land, with some differences in respect of US citizens and residents (for whom only the passport is required to enter the country), and Mexican citizens (for whom it is Border Crossing (BCC) when the visit is limited to the border area.

When you are about to cross the area of ​​security checks, as well as when boarding the aircraft, some precautions are recommended:

  • Be on time.
  • Have your passport and other travel documents at hand.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to remove.
  • Avoid wearing metal objects that can trigger the metal detector.
  • Take your computer out of your travel bag so that it can go through the security check

Children and babies must also pass through the control areas but will not be separated from their parents and / or guardians. It is advised that children who know how to walk pass by the metal detector alone. In the case of infants, the parent / guardian can go through the metal detector with his child in his arms.

The luggage inspection will be made for strollers, chairs, bags and diapers.

In order to speed up the passage of the safety zone, you will have to prepare to take the children out of their stroller. You will also need to stay with the babies all the time of the revision and not ask someone to hold it. It will also be necessary to declare immediately any liquid necessary for your children during the voyage.

Example: Famille Bianchi
This year, Cristina, her husband and her 6-year-old son Pierre, made the move to enter the United States through the Visa-free Travel Program. They will visit Orlando and the Disney theme parks. When they land at Miami airport, after the usual wait their turn finally arrives to pass for the automatic checking of passports to the electronic terminal.

Although her husband and son Piero were immediately authorized, Cristina had a result that asked for further clarification.

In such cases, the traveler is directed to another line, where an immigration officer analyzes the travel documents in more detail (passport and ESTA in this case). At this time a part of the travelers may be authorized in the country, or in other cases will be accompanied by an agent in a separate room. Sometimes for a problem with documents or an issue about his visit to the country.

In the case of Cristina, she has a namesake signaled in the system, so once authorized she can finally join her family and head for her final destination.

Example 2: Amber
Last year Amber and her friends spent a holiday on a one-week cruise that made a few stops in various Caribbean cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

At the time of arrival in this city, Amber with his ESTA began to pass through the immigration control in the port, during his disembarkation to discover the city. After the routine checks, Amber was stopped for further inspection. As it happens, she answered no to the question, “Have you ever been denied entry to the United States?” “. But eight years earlier this had happened to him.

After a confrontation with the agents, Amber finally saw his stamped passport and entry into the United States granted, with the promise to declare the accident occurred eight years earlier in his future declarations to the customs authorities.