Want to know more about Peru – US migration relations? Check out the first article in our new column by the former General Counsel of the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service.
Starting today, I will be writing a semi-monthly column for Living in Peru, spotlighting U.S. immigration and global migration issues you might want to know about. As the former General Counsel of the U.S. INS, an immigration lawyer for more than 25 years, and most importantly as someone married to a Peruvian, I am keenly aware that many of you have serious concerns about your ability to travel, live and work in the U.S.; particularly under the new administration of President Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation online and in traditional media when it comes to these issues. Clearly, from speaking with friends and family here in Peru, misinformation is a growing problem. Even where such information is arguably correct, it is presented so anecdotally, that if you were to rely on it alone, the end-result might be your exclusion from the U.S., or certainly an hours-long stay in U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) secondary inspection upon your arrival.
My goal is to ease your mind about the new enforcement policies, while at the same time outlining exactly what you can expect under the new Trump Administration.
In each column, I will highlight and explain one commonly misunderstood issue regarding travel to the U.S. (and from time-to-time to other countries around the world). I will try to be less lawyerly and more conversational, understanding that the information I am sharing with you is not intended to be and cannot and should not be taken as legal advice (so in each column, I will also refer you to the applicable U.S. government website link, so you can review the material yourself).
Finally, in each article, I will answer several of your submitted questions (please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org). The idea is to have the column be both an informational resource for you, and a give-and-take blog to permit me to share reader questions and experiences with a larger audience.
The best way to kick this off is to go directly to the greatest concern I am sure you all have –
Under the Trump Administration’s new tougher enforcement policy, what am I likely to experience the next time I try to make entry into the U.S.?
As it happens, I just made an entry back into the U.S. myself and let me tell you, it was an interesting experience for me as an American. Normally, U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) experience little questioning or scrutiny by the CBP officers.
But after I completed my processing through Global Access, I was subjected to several minutes of intense questioning by the CBP, to include: “where are you returning from” (I told the CBP Officer, “Peru”); “how long were you in Peru; why were you in Peru;” “do you have family in Peru,” and if so, “who in your family lives in Peru?”
Upon examining my passport, the CBP Officer saw I had several prior visas to Saudi Arabia, so he also wanted to know when and why I had been in Saudi Arabia; what I did for a living (I told him I was a lawyer); what kind of law did I practice (I told him transactional and immigration), and then, apparently satisfied, he simply returned my passport to me and said, “welcome home”.
The important takeaway is that CBP is asking detailed questions and examining passports now for everyone making entry into the U.S., Americans included!
All my responses were complete, to the point, and spoken in a friendly and relaxed manner (something everyone needs to remember to follow, as this process is normal, and does not imply that you are in trouble or did anything wrong). On the other hand, people who do not answer directly, mumble their answers because they are afraid they will say the wrong thing, or most imprudently, take offense they are even being asked questions at all; are certain to be sent to secondary inspection and the hours-long wait that entails.
Further, in secondary inspection, CBP can go through your luggage and its entire contents, including as some unfortunate woman from Australia discovered last week – her diary. And they can then make assumptions about your intent in entering the U.S., and if they believe you have an intent to stay permanently by overstaying your non-immigrant visa, they can put you into detention and send you back home (a process that can have severe implications on your future ability to return to the U.S.).
The key to coming to the U.S. today – be calm, be honest with CBP, and be prepared, have your passport with the appropriate U.S. visa; have evidence of your return ticket to go home after your stay in the U.S.; and do not bring anything with you that evinces that you have no intention of returning to Peru).
America is still a wonderful place that welcomes with open arms visitors, temporary workers and those seeking a permanent home in the U.S. All that is required is that you do so legally. And in this column, I will be helping you figure out how to do just that, buen viaje mis amigos!!
William P. Cook is the Managing Member of the Global Migration Law Group, PLLC, and the former General Counsel of the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) and can be reached at email@example.com. This column is a resource of general information regarding U.S. and global migration issues and by clicking on the links of this column and its associated website, users acknowledges that they wish to know more about migration issues for their own knowledge and use and that there has been no solicitation of them in any form or manner. The column and website are not intended to provide legal advice and do not create any attorney-client relationship. The author and website provide no guarantees whatsoever, including but not limited to those of accuracy or applicability of the information contained in this column or in any linked website, to any user’s personal situation. The author and website expressly disclaim any and all liability with regard to actions taken or not taken by the users based upon the content of this column or it’s associated website. You should always seek the advice of a competent legal professional for facts related to your personal circumstances.