International Students Guide - Re-Entry to the U.S.

9. Strategies for a Successful Re-entry into the United States

Procedures at the U.S. ports of entry will be different to accommodate new SEVIS requirements as well as US-VISIT requirements. Immigration and customs are now managed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You will see ICE officers at all U.S. ports of entry. You may also be required to go through a pre-inspection procedure at certain airports abroad.

UTS encourages students to have their current UTS ID card with them as back up identification. However, when you give your documents to the ICE inspector at your U.S. port of entry or pre-boarding checkpoint, you should initially present only your passport, I-94 card (which was distributed on the airplane), and signed SEVIS I-20. Your UTS ID card and other materials are meant to be used only for "supporting documentation" purposes, if you are asked additional questions or asked to produce additional documentation.

A ICE official who is presented with more documents than is customarily required might become suspicious, so you are well advised to show only your passport, I-94 and I-20. Then you have the comfort of knowing that you have additional supporting documentation with you if needed.

Expect close scrutiny of your documents. Answer all questions politely and briefly. Do not offer any information that goes beyond the scope of the question asked you.

SEVIS

ICE officials are required to record your arrival data into SEVIS at the time you enter, and return your SEVIS I-20 to you, after they have stamped it. However, not all ICE officials will have access to SEVIS at their booths in the "primary lanes." Depending upon the port of entry, some students may be directed to a secondary inspection area or "student lanes" so that their data can be entered into SEVIS. ICE is advising that processing at land, sea, and airports may take more time, so travel and connecting flight plans should take this into account.

Special Registration

Individuals subject to "special registration" will be directed to a separate area following their initial immigration inspection where they will be fingerprinted, photographed and questioned under oath. This may add significant delays to the amount of time spent at the airport. If traveling on a connecting flight, allow plenty of time. You must report back to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office 30 days after entering the United States, and annually thereafter. The list of those subject to "special registration" can be expanded at anytime with the publication of additional countries in the Federal Register.

Additionally, the INS has the discretion to requiring any foreign national, regardless of nationality, to undergo special registration if they are considered a national security risk. The discretionary factors relating to national security risk may include dual citizenship with one of the designated countries, a foreign national's unexplained trips to certain designated countries, other instances of unexplained travel, previous visa violations, people who by their "behavior, demeanor, or answers" demonstrate that they should be monitored while in the United States, and characteristics determined by intelligence profiles. Because of the broad and discretionary nature of the criteria, many non-immigrants could be subjected to special registration.

US-Visit

U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology, is a new entry/exit record keeping system for all non-immigrants traveling to and from the United States. It will begin to be installed at most U.S. airports beginning in early January, so some students returning from abroad may encounter it

In addition to the usual inspection procedure conducted by ICE officers, each non-immigrant will have their fingerprints taken by placing their index fingers on an inkless fingerprint scanner. A photograph will also be taken. Eventually, there will also be an exit procedure, which will require non-immigrants to scan their travel documents and repeat the fingerprinting process prior to departing the United States.

Entry and exit enhancements at land borders (Canada and Mexico) will be phased in during 2005 and 2006.

Document Problems

In certain cases, if there is some problem with your documents, you may be issued a 30-day entry on your I-94 card and issued a form I-515, usually with instructions to see your international student advisor. Examine your I-94 card carefully as you leave the immigration booth. F-1 students should have their I-94s marked "D/S" which means Duration of Status, along with a stamp indicating the date you entered the United States. If an expiration date is written on the I-94 instead of "D/S," and you are in F status, come to the Admissions Office as soon as possible.

Anyone who is denied admission at a U.S. port of entry should be very cautious about arguing with the immigration official. You may risk being issued "expedited removal," which now entails a five-year bar on admission to the U.S. If you are denied admission, first try to contact the Admissions Office for assistance, but also make it known to the Immigration Official that you are willing to withdraw your application for admission to the country rather than be subject to expedited removal.