By the time you get to the port of entry process, you’ve likely been waiting for about a year for your CR1/IR1 visa. Well, it’s finally time to use the new visa stamp in your passport to enter the United States for the first time. You may be confused when you hear “port of entry”, but don’t be. It’s actually just a way to describe how you enter the U.S.
Whether you choose to fly or cross the border by car, you’ll need to go through the same process with the U.S. customs and border patrol (CBP). We’ll discuss what actually happens during the port of entry process later on in this post.
So, what exactly happens at the port of entry?
If you’re nervous at the thought of entering the U.S. with your visa, you are not alone. Many new immigrants worry that they may be denied at the airport or the border crossing. But, the likelihood of CBP denying entry to someone with a CR1 or IR1 visa is very small. Almost unheard of.
Kelsey just received her CR1 visa stamped in her Canadian passport. She is finally able to pack up her stuff and move the U.S. to be with her husband of 1 year. The day finally arrives, she is dropped off at the airport by her parents and she begins to get nervous. When her plane lands in Chicago, she goes to the “visitors” line and hands her passport to the Customs and Border Protection officer.
The CBP officer reviews the visa stamp and asks her a few questions. He then takes her fingerprints and photograph and stamps her passport with I-551 stamp that serves as her proof of permanent residence. The CBP officer then says “welcome to the United States of America” and hands her back her passport. Kelsey leaves feeling relieved and joyful.
As you can see, the process is pretty straightforward and doesn’t last longer than an hour. How long it takes will depend on how busy CBP is though. Some of you that are flying in from certain countries (such as most Muslim countries) may be taken to secondary security. Don’t worry about this, it’s just procedure. As long as you have all the right documents, you will be allowed to enter the U.S..
CR1/IR1 Port Of Entry Process and What To Bring
Remember how I told you that you’ll need to go to the line for visitors instead of citizens or residents? This is still the case even if the U.S. citizen accompanies you on the flight. You are not a permanent resident yet, you still have to get through CBP review. Right now, you just have a visa that asks for permission to enter the United States as a permanent resident (green card holder).
Once you get in front of CBP, let them know that you are intending to immigrate. They will then take your passport with the visa stamp and the medical envelope that says “DO NOT OPEN”. Hopefully, you have not opened this envelope because if you did, you wouldn’t be granted entry. Sorry!
Bring your entire I-130 petition and CR1/IR1 visa application with you. The last thing you want is to be asked for something that you didn’t bring with you. The CBP officer will then take your fingerprints and ask you to provide the sealed medical envelope from the civil surgeon that did your medical.
You may be waiting for up to an hour for them to complete the process so make sure that you leave plenty of time when connecting flights.
After the CBP officer reviews your passport and documents, they’ll stamp the visa with an I-551 that will serve as your proof of permanent residence until your green card arrives in the mail. Expect to receive your green card in 2-3 weeks from the date you enter the U.S..
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One-Way Ticket or Round Trip When Using A CR1/IR1 Visa
Whether you choose a one-way ticket or round trip depends on the price. At least it should, right? When I was buying my ticket to the U.S., it was round trip. Why? Because it was actually cheaper than a one-way ticket.
It doesn’t really matter if you choose a round trip flight or a one-way ticket so pick what would cost less to save some money. This entire process has been expensive enough. If you are concerned that a one-way ticket will cause difficulty during inspection with CBP, rest assured. They already know you intend to immigrate and will be a permanent resident as soon as you are granted entry.
Can CBP Deny Entry Into The US If I Have A CR1/IR1 Visa?
Yes, they can! Having a CR1/IR1 visa doesn’t guarantee you entry into the U.S.. CBP has the final say on whether you are eligible to enter the U.S. and become a green card holder. It honestly doesn’t matter that the US consulate approved your a visa. CBP will review your case with a fresh pair of eyes and make their final decision.
Don’t worry though. Unless you say something like “Trump is a terrorist”, it’s unlikely that you will be turned away.
Seriously, don’t say anything bad about President Trump or use any forbidden words like “9/11”, “terrorism” and “I’m Muslim”…. just kidding! ? All joking aside, just answer their questions truthfully and with as little talking as possible. You’ve already come this far, we don’t want you to mess it up by rambling on and saying something that could piss them off, right?
Will I Get My Green Card And SSN At The Port Of Entry?
The green card and SSN will arrive in the mail within a 2-3 weeks. Make sure the address USCIS has on file is correct because that is where it will be mailed to. If you need to change your address, you can submit your address change request directly to USCIS.
In some cases the SSN may not arrive even if you checked the option to have it mailed on the DS-230 form. If this happens, you simply need to go to your local social security administration office and request your SSN. Take your passport and all documents related to your CR-1/IR-1 visa just in case they ask you for it.
At the port of entry, the CBP officer will have you sign a document stating that you understand the requirements of the 2 year conditional green card and may explain when you will receive it.
Can You Travel Outside The US Before Getting A Green Card?
Thinking of leaving the U.S. already? You just got here!
The answer is yes! You can leave the U.S. the day you become a permanent resident. You can use the I-551 stamp in your passport as proof of your green card status. You are immediately considered a Lawful Permanent Resident and have the right to work, travel and live in the U.S..
Why does your green card have conditions?
- If you’ve been married less than 2 years at the time of your interview, you will receive a 2 year conditional green card.
- If you’ve been married more than 2 years at the time of your interview, you’ll receive a 10 year permanent green card.
If there is some emergency where you must leave the U.S. before you have the advanced parole approved, you will need to apply for a CR1 visa to get back into the country. Why? Because you had no legal status when you left the country and now you are married. The U.S. spouse will need to start all over and petition for you with form I-130, petition for alien relative.
So, to avoid wasting more time and money just sit tight until you get the advanced parole before booking an international flight. In my case, I received the Advanced Parole document after 3 months when I submitted the I-485. I’m not saying you will get yours this quickly, but it will give you a general idea of how long you could be waiting.
What Questions Will CBP Ask You During Port Of Entry?
I’ll be honest, the CBP officer that I talked to during the port of entry process wasn’t a big talked. He was straight to business but was very nice. Don’t expect them to ask you too much about how you feel and why you decided to move to the U.S.. All they care about is processing your visa and making sure that you are in fact eligible to enter the country.
They are trained to asked certain questions that will give them what they are looking for.
What are they looking for? Fraud and misrepresentation.
They want to make sure that you are truly eligible for the CR1/IR1 visa and that you didn’t lie to get it. This is one reason I recommend everyone to put together their own case and not really completely on an immigration attorney or immigration service. You need to know the details of your case completely because you will likely be asked questions about it.
If you’ve ever entered the U.S. before, you likely have an “alien registration number” on file.. This is similar to a social security number that can be used to identify you in many different immigration agencies.
Possible Questions Asked At Port Of Entry:
- What is your spouse’s name?
- What address will you be moving to?
- When did you get married?
- Do you have other family members in the U.S.?
- Do you have any communicable diseases?
- Have you ever been denied entry?
These questions are designed to find out if you will lie to the CBP officer. Don’t do it! You are so close to living your dream in the U.S., why destroy it with a little white lie? Answer the questions honestly and don’t think too much about what the CBP officer wants to hear.
Final Thoughts On CR1/IR1 Port Of Entry Process
I’m sure you are extremely excited at the thought of finally moving to the U.S.. I know that I was happy, excited and nervous all at the same time. I was sad to leave my family and friends behind, but really excited at the chance for a brighter future with my love. This may be how you’re feeling too and it’s completely normal.
Now that I’ve been in America for years, I don’t regret my decision one bit.
You’re life is about to completely change, especially if you’re moving from a country that isn’t “westernized”. You may need to learn English as a second language, learn to drive, find a job, and wrap your head around the U.S. healthcare system. Overall, you’ll have a lot of learning to do after your move.
One other thing that I’ll warn you guys about is that you will really miss home the first few months. The newness of the experience wares off and you begin to really feel sad at times because you feel like a foreigner in your own home. Luckily, these feelings will disappear the longer you live in the United States. I like the saying “this too shall pass” to encompass how you will feel before and after the port of entry process.
Remember, you can always Skype to talk to your family and friends back home. I know it isn’t the same as seeing them in person but it will have to do until you book a flight.