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Was I Properly Inspected?

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What does it mean to be inspected at a port of entry? Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States, out of our offices in San Diego, California and St. Louis, Missouri. We had a client who was confused the other day about what it means to be inspected at a port of entry. And all it really means is that you have entered the United States with permission, that you had a visa, that you interacted with a customs and border patrol official, that they looked at your passport, that they may have asked you, "Why are you coming to the United States?" And they should be placing a stamp in your passport.

Now, with electronics and I-94s being done digitally, a lot of that might happen in your interaction with a machine, and then you get to see the officer at the very end. But inspection is a really important concept in immigration law. In fact, a lot of people talk about illegal immigrants, and we don't talk about illegal immigrants in our office. We talk about people who entered without inspection. Inspection is that key word. And the reason it's so important to be properly inspected and to keep proof of your proper inspection, is that that's really going to make it easier for you if you ever want to adjust status.

If you can't prove that you were properly inspected, and it is your burden, it's our burden to demonstrate that you were properly inspected. If you can't prove that, you might have a hard time being able to adjust status. And so the way that plays out is if you marry a U.S. citizen, or if you have some other employment-based or other way of trying to get lawful permanent residence in the United States, you're going to have to show a proper inspection. You might need to be able to show a proper inspection for or when you were inspected to show that you didn't overstay your visa. You always want to keep very good track of when you entered the United States and any proof that you have of that.

I really suggest that as soon as you have that stamp in your passport, that you take a picture of it and you put that picture someplace safe. A picture will suffice later on if you need it. We've had many, many cases where we did a Freedom of Information Act request, and we were able to find some grainy photo of the stamp, and that really helped turn the tide for our client. This is a really important thing. I tell people when they come into my office and they have a really old proof of inspection, a really old visa stamp, I tell them, "That is the most valuable thing that you own if you want to stay in the United States." I will actually get up, even if they're not my client, I'll get up and I'll scan it right then, because I want to make sure that we have it stored digitally forever if they ever need it.

It's the most important thing that you have because without it, it can make your life in Immigration Land a whole lot more complex. You might be deemed to have entered without inspection or not to have carried your burden of demonstrating inspection. And so you want to make sure that when you come through customs, that you do get inspected. Sometimes they'll just wave you through. You might want to ask, "Can I get a stamp? I want to make sure that I have proof that I entered the United States legally." Sometimes we have to prove this secondary evidence like travel tickets and things like that, but that's much less effective than actually having that inspection and having that stamp, so really important concept.

If you're thinking about applying for green card, and you don't have proof of inspection, you might need help. If so, give us a call at 314-961-8200. You can email us at [email protected]. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. If you like this video, we ask that you to please share it out on social and you subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we make videos just like this one. And every Tuesday and Thursday, you'll find us in the Facebook group and on our YouTube channel answering as many of your questions, usually at noon Central Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thanks, and we hope to see you there.

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