A Port of Entry is an immigration check counter, present at every point where one can enter a country lawfully. The United States has 327 ports of entry, of which 115 are Airports of Entry (AOE) and you can find one that is closest to your destination here.
A research paper published by Congressional Research Service in 2015 mentioned that in 2013, a total of 205,000 foreign nationals were denied entry to the United States at the port of entry (POE), while about 24,000 were arrested on criminal warrants.
It may feel intimidating, but being allowed to enter at a POE is not very difficult, provided you do not violate any laws and answer all questions correctly at the counter. Read further to be better prepared at the Port of Entry.
What to Do at the Port of Entry?
Once you’ve landed in the US, you will head straight to the POE. Here, an immigration or customs official will check your passport, US visa and the customs form. You may also be asked about the purpose of your visit, about your employers, the work you will be doing in the country, the duration of your stay and other such questions.
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Be confident while answering all questions and do not say anything that conflicts with what your documents say. For instance, do not indicate that you plan to overstay your visa or work illegally in the country.
Next, the officer will record your fingerprint and take a digital photograph. Your passport will then be stamped with the date of your arrival, date of scheduled departure from the United States and your visa type. A form I-94 will be created electronically, before granting you entry into the US.
Before leaving the counter, check the stamps put on your passport. The date stamped on your passport should be the date until which you’re legally allowed to stay in the United States and not the date on your visa. Be sure to get corrections done immediately if there is a discrepancy in the date. In case an error comes to your notice later, contact your local Customs and Border Protection office.
Tips for the Port of Entry
- Go through the list of items restricted and prohibited to enter the United States and avoid carrying them.
- If you have trouble communicating in English or have parents who do, a formal letter can be written, mentioning the duration of stay, purpose of visit, etc.
- If you come across as suspicious, you will be sent for a second interview, this will have more detailed questions about the duration and purpose of your visit, the visa class, your accommodation during the stay, etc. The best idea is to be honest and polite with your answers to avoid trouble.
Having cleared the interview at the port of entry, you can enter the United States. Before you exit the airport, do not forget to collect your luggage from the baggage claim.