Permanent Residents: Know Your Rights at a Port of Entry

Erick Widman

Many of us travel to meet with friends and family during the holiday season. Although this should be a happy occasion, travel can be stressful –– especially for immigrants.

As a permanent resident, you’re certain to encounter Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers upon returning to the US. They’ll inspect your travel documents and determine whether you are a “returning resident” or an “arriving alien.” If you have a valid green card, you’ll likely be admitted immediately and granted entry. However, there’s a chance you’ll be taken to a separate area for “secondary inspection” if CBP is uncertain about your immigration status.

What to Expect in Secondary Inspection

Secondary inspection can be frustrating and feel like an invasion of privacy. This process can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, during which an officer will ask you questions, run record checks, and possibly take your fingerprints. CBP even has the ability to search your phone, tablet, laptop, or other electronic devices. They can read your emails, peruse your text messages, and check your social media feeds. (This is why it’s important to protect your devices while traveling.)

Your Rights in Secondary Inspection

The good news is you have certain rights if you are detained by CBP in secondary inspection, including:

The right to contact your consulate, which can assist you with contacting an attorney or family member.

  • The right to ask to speak with your attorney, if you have one. (However, CBP may deny this request.)
  • The right to review all paperwork presented by CBP.
  • The right to refuse to sign any paperwork presented by CBP.

We hope you will never be placed in secondary inspection. If you are, ideally you will be processed quickly and granted entry.

Why CBP Might Be Suspicious of You – Even Though You Have a Green Card

However, CBP may consider you to be an “arriving alien” for several reasons, including if they believe that you:

  • Abandoned your permanent resident status
  • Remained outside the US for six months without permission
  • Engaged in illegal activity abroad

If CBP believes you abandoned your permanent resident status, they may try to convince you to sign something called Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status.

Do Not Abandon Your Green Card

CBP cannot force you to sign Form I-407 or abandon your green card. You have the right to refuse to sign Form I-407 and request a hearing. You will remain a permanent resident unless an immigration judge issues an official order of removal.

To avoid possible delays, we strongly encourage you to speak with an experienced immigration attorney before making any travel plans. Do you have questions or concerns about traveling as a permanent resident? Give us a call (503) 427-8243 or click here to schedule a consultation.

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