As the holidays approach, many people will be traveling both internationally and domestically. Immigrants often ask what the risks are in traveling and what precautions should be taken when doing so.
Due to recent changes in the REAL ID Act, driver’s licenses from certain states cannot be used to board an airplane for domestic flights. Regardless of your immigration status, it is a good idea to have a valid passport if you are planning to travel by plane.
Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) need to be aware that when returning to the United States from travel abroad they will be subject to immigration review. If, during such review, a determination is made that they are inadmissible (even though you may have been admissible previously), they may be denied admission. This most frequently occurs when an immigration official discovers an immigration violation or criminal conviction that impacts admissibility.
If you have been admitted as a nonimmigrant and have applied to extend the period of authorized nonimmigrant stay or have applied to change to a different nonimmigrant status, you will automatically abandon the application if you leave the United States before receiving a decision on the advance parole application. Receipt of an advance parole document does NOT prevent abandonment of the change of status or extension of stay application. Upon returning to the United States, you are likely to be denied admission if your current status has expired.
Individuals who have an immigration application pending may want to consider carrying copies of their receipt notices in case they are detained. They should always have a plan in place and keep important documents stored together so that they can be found by a family member or friend.
For the reasons stated above, it is important that proper documentation is obtained before leaving the United States. Also, keep in mind that admission into the United States is not guaranteed even if the appropriate documents are obtained.
Further, it is important to know that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) typically patrols 100 miles from any external boundary of the United States. CBP does this by conducting stationary and temporary checkpoints, boarding buses and trains, and roving patrols.
Everyone, regardless of immigration status, has rights if they are approached by a CBP agents. These rights include:
• The right to remain silent. You may tell the agent that you will only answer questions in the presence of an attorney.
• If you are detained, you have the right to contact your attorney immediately.
• Do not sign anything you do not understand until you have advice from your attorney.
• If you find yourself at an immigration checkpoint while you are driving, never flee from it—this can be considered a felony.
• Always stay calm and be courteous when dealing with immigration officials.
Undocumented individuals should avoid traveling close to the international border and near CBP checkpoints. Also, they should never carry fraudulent identity documents or present them to a CBP agent.
Should you have any questions about your rights when traveling or if you or a loved one have been detained, please call our office to schedule a consultation at (714) 494-4545.