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What are the rules for travelers entering the US?
New federal rules are set to radically restrict or block the entry of people from some nations based on the nationalities of their citizens. There are exceptions, like for people granted special refugee status.
But if you’re coming to the US from one of the 37 named countries listed in President Trump’s executive order, you can expect customs and border officials to conduct a much closer look. There are many other customs and immigration requirements, but the overall practice is to send everyone at your risk to secondary screening or search your baggage more thoroughly than in the past. The rules in place for how much time you can be held aside vary by the date and destination, and may require you to stay in line for as long as four hours.
The general approach to the US is that you may enter for up to three weeks, although that can vary by inspection date. Most commonly, you’ll spend two hours in customs and security and then start your visit at a hotel. The longer you stay, the longer you’ll be detained.
There are a lot of more specific things to know about what the rules are. Here’s an easy-to-digest overview of what you can expect from the Trump administration’s new policy.
What are the new rules for entering the US?
The order also makes many countries on Trump’s list of known, or designated, terrorism risk countries eligible for a waiver for short-term visits. This follows Trump’s move to ban travel from some Muslim-majority countries in January 2017.
Waivers will be available from the State Department, or for some trips depending on the country’s proximity to the US. This keeps them in place but removes it from the Trump administration’s approach to evaluating risk for visitors from all countries.
What do I need to know?
You should familiarize yourself with what you need to bring with you. Some essentials will still be available to buy on foreign flights, even if the US restrictions prevent your arrival.
When a traveller arrives at any of the airports within the list of most-visited countries, customs officials are in charge of evaluating each person at a glance for potential threats and directing them to secondary screening. This can range from relatively minor – taking notes on passport information, visa status, such as the validity of your visa – to more rigorous measures such as confiscating phones, laptops, and video cameras.
What are the exceptions to the ban on entry into the US?
The new policy does not impact those citizens of the US or the nations on the list – countries such as Mexico and the United Kingdom – who have final permanent residency, or green cards, and are permanent residents as well.
If you have a request for a visa or entry visa denied, or are currently living in the US without a visa, you can appeal it through the US Embassy in the country of your permanent residence. You have up to three months to appeal, and before you can start any new permanent residence, you must file an application with the US State Department.
In most cases, you can apply for a provisional stay to allow you to enter the US in the meantime – though that does require providing the travel agency or visa provider with your application.
How long will it take to get through customs?
Of course, you’ll need to plan ahead and leave plenty of time to get to a satisfactory appointment. I asked a friend whose grandfather was a famous American baseball player, Lou Gehrig, who was in this situation, what he described as the “I am going to give you 10 to 15 minutes of my time” approach.