In a recent liaison meeting with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, leadership from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided information on agency policies for the arrival of certain foreign travelers at Newark Liberty Airport in particular categories.
H-1B Visa Holders: CBP reported that there has been an increase in the number of fraudulent H-1B applications and applicants, therefore scrutiny of these travelers has increased. CBP officers may question the applicant for admission regarding work history, working conditions and may verify employment with the H-1B employer or attorney of record. H-1B applicants who are working on contracts and placed at third or fourth party sites should be especially careful, as recent guidance on this issue from USCIS headquarters has caused a stir among the agency and given it additional avenues of questioning for H-1B workers. Lesson learned: If you are on an H-1B and placed off site for your employment, contact your attorney prior to any international travel to ensure that you are prepared for any questioning and have the proper documentation on hand.
Conditional Residents (I-751 pending) When a returning traveler presents an I-551 stamp or receipt notice with an expired green card, the traveler will always be placed in secondary inspection. Lesson Learned: Do not be alarmed if this happens to you. Be prepared for it when you arrive in the United States and do not worry. The CBP will review your electronic record to make sure your I-751 is still pending and then will allow you into the country.
Returning Residents with Expired Green Cards: Travelers who have been out of the U.S. for more than 6 months, or who have expired green cards, will be placed into secondary inspection. The traveler will have to explain the absence and demonstrate that the traveler still has an intention to be a permanent resident of the United States. Lesson Learned: If you know you will be out of the United States for more than 6 months apply for a Reentry Permit before you leave. Prior to your return consult with immigration counsel so you are prepared with documentation and answers to the interview questions upon your return.
Travelers with Criminal Records: CBP receives a list of individuals on a flight when it leaves an airport abroad. In the time that it takes for the flight to get to the US, CBP checks names and obtains electronic criminal records when they are available. As a result of this faster process, arriving aliens with criminal convictions can be immediately placed in expedited removal proceedings. If the conviction occurred after 1998 and is a deportable offense, detention is mandatory while the traveler awaits a hearing with a judge. For convictions prior to 1998 detention is up to the discretion of the CBP and ICE Chief Counsel’s office. Lesson Learned: If you are not a US citizen and you have any type of criminal record. Check with your immigration attorney prior to any foreign travel.