US Visa Inspection Process

American Visa StampAll foreign nationals must present themselves to an immigration officer when they attempt to enter the United States. Certain non-immigrants visa holders such as tourist visa holders will receive more scrutiny than non-immigrant visa with a dual intent. The immigration officer has the authority to deny entry of a foreign nationals even though they have a visa if the officer does not believe that the foreign national will comply with the terms of the visa.

Upon entry, the foreign national must hand the officer their passport. The passport is scanned or manually entered into their system. The officer will determine the identity of the foreign national, examine their travel documents, completes inspection of their past record to determine where the foreign national is inadmissible. The officer will question the foreign national to determine the intent and purpose of their entry into the United States. The initial questioning takes only a couple of minutes.

If the immigration officer has questions or concerns with the foreign national, the foreign national will be sent to a secondary inspection. If the foreign national is entering the United States on an immigrant visa, they will automatically be sent to secondary inspection. The immigration officer will further investigate the foreign national to verify information and address any concerns. The officer will question the foreign national about the purpose of their visit, employment status, identity, and other background information. This information will be checked against information contained in their database.

If the officer does not believe that the foreign national will comply with the terms of their visa, the officer will have three options. The officer can place the foreign national in holding until they can be placed on a plane to return home. The officer can also defer the decision and transfer the foreign national to another government office for an immigration judge to make a decision. The officer can cancel the foreign national’s visa and allow them to enter the U.S. for a short duration. The officer will generally require the foreign national to sign a statement verifying the statements that they provided to the officer and agreeing to return back home at the end of their authorized stay.

If the immigration officer decides to admit the visa holder, the foreign national’s passport will be stamped noting the period of authorized stay and their entry will be entered into a computer database. When the foreign national leaves the United States, their exit will be recorded to ensure that the foreign national did not remain in the United States beyond their authorized stay. Even for nationals of Visa Waiver Countries, their entry and exit will be recorded. The notation of their entry and exit into the United States is called the I-94 and can be accessed online.

Category: US Immigration

About the Author (Author Profile)

Mr. Robert R. Virasin is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor Degree in Political Science, Mr. Virasin completed his Juris Doctorate at the University of Houston and a Masters of Laws (Business) from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Mr. Virasin is a member of the State Bar of Texas and is a licensed U.S. attorney with over 15 years of legal experience. Robert is a regular contributor and author of a number of immigration related articles.


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