U.S. has 327 ports of entry that include 115 airports and 14 seaports. The port of entry is the immigration check counter at the destination airport of the U.S. Upon your arrival in the U.S. you will have to pass through this counter. The immigration/customs officer will ask you certain questions, stamp your passport, and give you the I-94 counter slip. You are legally allowed to stay in the U.S. till the date printed on your I-94 and the date printed on the visa.
From April 30, 2013 CBP has started a new paperless I-94 process. For travelers visiting USA via sea or air, will no longer fill out the paper-based I-94 form. The Border Protection Officer will create an eletronic Arrival/Departure record that will be made available at the CBP Website.
All nonimmigrant visitors holding visas are required to participate in the US-VISIT program that tracks entries to and exits from the U.S. Under this system, the Immigration Officer will click your digital photo and take your digital finger print. You should expect questions related to your length of stay and your place of residence. You may be asked questions such as "Why you want to stay in U.S. for 3 months? Or why do you want to stay for 6 months?
To summarize, this is what happens at the port of entry:
- Immigration officer looks at your travel documents (passport, visas).
- Immigration officer may ask questions about the purpose of your visit.
- Immigration officer will take digital picture and digital finger print. (known as us-visit program)
- Stamp your passport with the admission stamp along with the date of entry, the visa class, and the duration of admission
Verify the information on the form I94
Always double check the dates and other relevant information on the I94. If there is a typing error about the visa or date, you must immediately bring this to the officer's attention. Let the officer know what is wrong and get it corrected. In case you notice the error later you can contact your local CBP (Customs and Border Protection) office or call 1- 877-CBP -5511 Monday-Friday, between 8:30 and 5:00 Eastern Time.
How do I convince the immigration officer at the port of entry that I must stay for a longer time period?
For parents visiting USA, this should not be a big problem, but they still need to satisfy the officer with a proper and genuine answer that justifies a longer stay. Generally parents travel to the U.S. for the following reasons:
- Meeting their children and grand children
- Meeting relatives
- Travelling in USA
You must tell the Officer that you want to spend time with your family and travel which will take considerable time.
- The sponsor can write a simple formal letter stating the problem of communication in English language if their parents are unable to communicate in English properly. The letter must clearly request a stay for 6 months stay for their parents, while citing the reason of their stay.
- Parents who can communicate well in English should be able to convince the officer on their own. They must convince the officer that under no circumstance will they overstay in the U.S.
- It is better to be polite and confident during the verification process. If the officer suspects anything wrong, he will send you for 'second interview'. This will involve more questioning about the purpose and duration of your visit.
The airport you arrive at is a "Port of Entry" where CBP officers are responsible for verifying the entry and exit of visitors. You must always hand-carry all important documents such as your passport, tickets, IDs and comply with the rules and regulations to minimize delays at the port of entry.
A sample letter may look like this:
The Immigration Officer,
Dear Sir/Madam, I, [Name of Invitee's], residing at the above address, am writing on behalf of my parents/mother/father, [Name of the visitor(s)], since they/he/she cannot understand and speak English properly. The purpose of their/his/her visit is to spend time with us, and travel to different parts of the country. I will be accompanying them/him/her during their/his/her tour. Since I am a full time worker, I can only show them/him/her around and take them/him/her to various places on week-ends and long weekends. A six months stay would give us more time to travel and spend quality time with each other. They/he/she have already booked a return ticket for [Month, Year] and I have obtained the health insurance for them/him/her for a period of six months. I request you to let them/him/her stay for 6 months in the U.S.A. Thanks in advance.
* The information in the bracket must be appropriately filled.