August 29, 2023

Prepare for Your Travel

Before traveling outside the U.S., you should:

  • Give a family member a detailed itinerary for your trip, your date of birth, and your passport or visa details. This enables an advocate to assist you should you experience a delay on your return.
  • Memorize the phone number of a close family member as you may not have access to your phone or personal belongings if you are delayed in secondary inspection when you return.

Prepare for Your Return to the U.S.

To re-enter the U.S., travelers must go through immigration and customs inspection. U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will verify your identity and ensure you are not carrying any illegal items or bringing more than $10,000 into the U.S. 

Primary Inspection: All travelers must pass through the preliminary inspection procedure. You can be asked about the general purpose of your trip (personal, business, or both), your immigration status, if you are carrying any banned item (including banned agricultural items), and the amount of currency you are declaring.

Secondary Inspection: Some travelers may be detained in a separate area for a variety of reasons upon return to the U.S. These travelers will be screened more thoroughly and may be asked intrusive questions. If you have experienced this before, contact CAIR-SFBA before your trip.

CBP Can…

  • Question you about your citizenship, the nature or purpose of your trip, and anything you are bringing back to the U.S. that you did not have with you when you left.
  • Examine your baggage and everything in it.
  • Confiscate your electronic items.

CBP Cannot…

  • Target you for additional screening or questions based on racial or ethnic profiling.
  • Ask U.S. Citizens and Green Card holders general personal questions (e.g., about your friends or where you spend time, work, or worship). If they do, you can politely object to these questions by stating, β€œThat question is not relevant to my entry into the country. I would like to speak with your supervisor.”
  • Handcuff you or strip search you without probable cause.
  • Confiscate your electronic property without providing a receipt.

General Tips for Travelers

Following are general tips for all travelers.

  • Tell the truth: All statements made to law enforcement agents at the border or otherwise must be truthful. A lie, even a small one, could be prosecuted and punishable with imprisonment.
  • Reduce the data you carry: Consider backing up your data to the cloud before your departure from the U.S. or travel with a temporary device. Log out of all accounts (Facebook, email, Instagram, etc.) and ensure your phone has a strong password. Completely turn off your phone before proceeding through U.S. customs. If your device is confiscated, write down the agent’s name and get a receipt for your property.
  • Do not sign anything without speaking to a lawyer.
  • Ask for a phone to speak to your lawyer. Generally, this is provided to you, but you may have to ask more than once. Call CAIR-SFBA or a close family member.
  • Stay accountable: Your best defense is you. Account for the time you arrived, the lane you entered, the officers who spoke to you or handled your belongings, the questions you were asked, and the time you were released.
  • Report all delays to CAIR-SFBA .

Following are additional tips for U.S. Citizens.

  • You have the absolute right to return to the U.S. If you are denied boarding on your return flight, contact CAIR-SFBA or a close family member immediately.
  • You are not required to unlock your electronic devices or provide your password. But your device may be confiscated.

See also: “Know the Facts and Know Your Rights – For Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities” in ArabicEnglish, and Farsi.