When you arrive in the US, you will need to go through passport control. Passport control happens at all types of international border crossings in the US, including international airports, seaports, and land border crossings. The place where you cross the border is called a port of entry. This page explains what is likely to happen when you go through passport control at the port of entry.

Arrival in the US

Everyone entering the US is likely to be inspected by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This is true for US citizens and citizens of other countries. Anyone who wants to lawfully enter the US must prove that they are eligible to enter to the US.  The CBP officer at the border makes the decision if a person is eligible to enter the US. You must show your passport, visa, and other supporting documents. The CBP officer will review your travel documents to confirm your identity and nationality, and ask questions about your visit to the US. The CBP officer may ask questions like these:

  • What is your country of citizenship?
  • Why are you coming to the US?
  • How long do you plan to visit?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • What is your permanent residence abroad?
  • What means do you have to support yourself financially during your stay in the US?

Most nonimmigrants will have their digital finger prints and photograph taken. If the CBP officer decides that you may enter the US, the CBP officer will place an admission stamp in your passport. The stamp has your date of entry, your visa class, and the duration of your admission. For most travelers, this screening process takes no more than a few minutes.

What is secondary inspection?

If CBP officers at a port of entry need more information to decide if you can enter the US, you may be sent to an interview area known as secondary inspection. You may also be sent to secondary inspection on a random basis. Anyone, including US citizens, may be sent to secondary inspection if the CBP officer has reservations about admitting them. 

Secondary inspection is a more detailed inspection to determine whether you should be admitted to the US. It allows CBP officers to conduct additional research to verify information without delaying other travelers. During a secondary inspection, the CBP officer may ask you detailed questions about your travel plans and immigration history. You may be asked to produce additional proof of identification and detailed information about the purpose of your visit to the US.

Both you and your belongings may be searched extensively. The inspections may include a search of all electronic information stored on your laptop, cell phone or other electronic device. Generally, CBP officers can search your laptop files and make copies of information contained in the files. They may also ask to access your social media profiles or email. Whether you are legally required to provide your login and password information is unclear at this time. However, if you refuse to share your login and password information, you might not be allowed to enter the US.   

Secondary inspection is much more comprehensive than a primary inspection and can take several hours to complete.

What if I have problems at the border?

If you have problems at the border, you can contact the OIE. During standard business hours, call the OIE directly at +1-802-656-4296. Outside of standard business hours, call UVM Police Services at +1-802-656-3473. UVM Police Services will be able to connect you to an OIE staff member.

Even if you do not call us from the border, we want to know about any problems that you have. Please contact us to share your experiences.