U.S. Customs Entry Questions

Posted by Frank Gogol
Updated on June 8, 2022

If you are coming to the United States on a visa, then you may expect to be asked a series of questions upon your arrival at the airport. Every immigrant or non-immigrant individual will have to pass through primary and secondary inspections, where the officers will check their documents and information.

What Questions Do US Customs Agents Ask at the Border?

Upon arriving at the Customs and Border Protection, you may expect to be asked the following questions:

Why Are You Visiting the United States?

The answer that you give needs to match the visa that you have. For instance, if you have a K1 fiancé visa, then you will have to inform Customs and Border Protection that you intend to marry your fiancé. Similarly, if you are on a B-2 visa, you should say that you are planning to visit.

You need to be straightforward in what you say, lest you raise a red flag. If you are on a visitor visa and say at border control that you are looking for a job, you’ll be boarded on the next flight home. Through your answer, you must show that you are planning to stay true to the laws of the U.S.

Where Will You Be Staying While in the U.S.?

If you are planning to stay on a temporary basis in the U.S., the CBP will want to know what your arrangements are. After all, if you are there on a visa, they’ll need to know that you have a clear plan or purpose for staying in the United States. If they see that you don’t have a place to stay, then the US customs agents might start wondering whether they should let you in or not.

Who Will You Be Visiting While in the U.S.?

For the most part, this is directed at tourists coming to visit the United States. The Custom and Borders will want to know whether you have any plans to visit any people during your stay.

They might not precisely care about the people you randomly meet for a coffee, but they’ll want to know precise plans – for example, if you are planning to visit a relative and perhaps stay here. They might not ask you this question if you are on a K-1 visa as a fiancé, but they may want to know when the wedding is (and its location).

How Long Will You Be Staying in the U.S.?

This question is usually oriented toward people that are planning to stay on a temporary basis. For instance, if you are an exchange student coming for a semester in the States, the Port of Entry process for F1 students will require you to disclose when your studies will end. You should not claim to stay longer when your documents show a specific date.

How Much Money Do You Have Available for This Trip?

Once more, this question is directed to tourists, for the most part. For example, if you are planning to visit the United States, they’ll want to know what your budget is. They’ll also want to know if you have all the money at that moment, or if you’ll be receiving the money later on (i.e., if you have a debit card, and you’ll receive regular pay during your stay).

There is sound logic behind this question: they want to know whether you have the funds to cover average expenses during your stay or not. They want to reduce the circumstances in which a tourist may need emergency financial assistance. This may affect the U.S. economy if they’re not careful, so of course, they’d want to avoid that.

Who Is Paying for This Trip?

The U.S. border control will also want to know whether you have someone paying for your trip or not – especially if you are staying for a longer time. For example, more than 75,000 students are stranded moneyless in the U.S., some even without a roof over their heads. These cases are the ones that will most likely eventually need financial assistance.

The goal of Customs and Borders Protection agents is to make sure that you have enough cash flow to help you go through day-to-day expenses. You may be receiving the income from someone you are staying at, or from someone in your home country. In that case, the officers will need to know about it.

Have You Ever Visited the U.S. Before? If So, How Long Did You Stay?

If you have ever come to the U.S. before, the border officer will want to know about it. They will also want to know whether you stayed more than you intended to or not. There is a wave of illegal immigrants who overstayed their visas. So, if you have a prior record of that, the officers need to note it down. If they consider you to be a risk, they might not feel like it’s a good idea to let you out. 

The U.S. Customs process when leaving the country will require documenting all tourists that overstayed their visas. Therefore, you may not lie your way out of this. If they take a closer look at your documents, you risk being deported – even if your current visit to the U.S. is legit and you planned to leave by the scheduled time.

What Rights Do Foreign Nationals Have at the U.S. Border?

As a foreign national trying to make their way into the U.S., you must know your rights – no matter if you are there on a temporary or permanent basis. These rights may apply to foreign nationals here, but under the Fourteenth Amendment, this applies to all people coming through the borders.

At the U.S. Border, you do not have the right to contact your attorney during the first and second inspection, unless the situation asks for it. They also do not need permission to check your bags, and they have permission to ask any questions they may have for you. This applies to U.S. citizens as well, so you should not feel offended if they feel the need to check your luggage.

Be Prepared For

At the Customs and Borders Protection, you should also be prepared for circumstances such as:

Long Lines and Delays

Airports are usually packed with people coming and going, so unless you have some travel package that allows you priority, you may have to wait a long time to be screened. Don’t make any promises that you’ll meet up with people “immediately after the plane lands.”

Luggage Search

You can also expect your luggage to be searched at the CPB entry point. Therefore, don’t bring in any questionable or illegal items, and don’t bring any items that might contradict your visa. For instance, if you are on a tourist visa, the officers may raise an eyebrow if they see you coming with a stack of resumes or a book on how to live as an immigrant in the U.S.

Medical Screening

Medical screenings may also be done in the event of an epidemic or a pandemic. For instance, if you are coming from a risk area, you may be expected to go through a screening to prove you are not sick or contagious. An example would be the negative test visitors had to provide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Final Thoughts

The questions during the screening process are fairly standard but are important, nonetheless. This is why you need to be honest and follow the laws of the U.S. Otherwise, you may end up boarding the plane back home, simply because they found you suspicious.


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