As a frequent border crosser, I continue to encounter delay issues. Any thoughts on ways to expedite the process?

Question:

I am a Canadian citizen. I live near the border and make frequent trips to the United States for shopping, dinner, and to attend sporting events. Also, my girlfriend lives in the United States and I visit her often.

As a frequent border crosser, I was wondering if there is anyway to expedite the border crossing process? No matter how many times I cross the border, I feel like there is no consistency as to how I am treated. During some crossings, I feel I am close to being turned and denied entry. During other crossing, there are times where I am asked one or two questions before being admitted. At one crossing in particular, I was directed to secondary inspection and was stuck at the border for over an hour before being allowed to enter. I am always truthful with border officers and never violate my visitor status. Any thoughts?

Answer:

Crossing the border can be an intimidating experience for even the most experienced traveler. I attribute your inconsistent treatment to the diversity of style among Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. Some offices are friendly, while others are not. In general, most officers seem to fall somewhere in the middle. However, it only takes one awful experience to color your entire perception of the border for a very long time.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid inspection at the border altogether, but there are ways to expedite the process. For example, if you meet certain requirements, you may consider applying to a trusted traveler program, such as NEXUS. Trusted traveler programs allow you to use designated lanes at certain ports of entry and TSA pre-check lanes at participating airports. As a trusted traveler, you are still questioned just as you would at a normal inspection booth; however, the inspection process is generally much shorter.

It is difficult to provide you with specific advise without know first knowing the specifics of your immigration history, but I have provided some general information that you may find helpful.

Border denials

One of the more common reasons for being denied admission to the United States is an applicant’s inability to overcome the presumption of immigrant intent. Under INA § 214(b), there is a presumption that all persons seeking entry to the United States are immigrants. However, you may rebut this presumption by providing evidence of your ties to your home country, such as an employment letter and copies of utility bills.

In the event that you are denied admission into the United States, your best option is to contact an immigration attorney to evaluate what happened. An attorney can review your immigration and criminal history (if applicable), and, if necessary, prepare a brief to present to CBP officials arguing why you are admissible to enter the United States.

After a denial, write down your experience as soon as possible. The longer you wait to document your experience, the greater chance you risk forgetting crucial information. Document the time, date, and description of the CBP officer that questioned you. In most cases, after you are questioned and denied admission, you were likely allowed to “withdraw” your application for admission and return home. Most important of all, regardless of your immigration and criminal history, you must always be truthful in your dealings with CBP. A willful misrepresentation or fraudulent statement can have serious consequences. Be aware that CBP often uses intimidation to gauge your reaction to questions.

Typical reasons for being denied admission include: (1) immigrant intent (as mentioned above), (2) a defective work authorization application, or (3) lack of ties to your home country. The burden of proof is always on you to prove that you are not an intending immigrant.

Expedited Removal

If you are expedited removed, contact an immigration attorney immediately. An expedited removal order carries a 5-year bar, but can be overcome by filing an I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal. After you are expedited removed, you will be issued several documents including a question and answer document (Form I-867) and a removal order. If time has passed since you were expedited removed and you are not in possession of all necessary documents, those documents may be obtained at the issuing port of entry, or by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

Deferred Inspection

Finally, in some situations, CBP may defer your inspection to allow you to obtain additional evidence to assist with the inspection process. Deferred inspection is a form of parole and is at the discretion of CBP.

If you continue to encounter border issues, please contact our office to discuss your situation.