Hello dear readers! I wanted to share some of my interactions with US border protection and US embassy to help you prepare for customs and immigration.
I have gotten through every time and the experience has been good overall. I have been an Indian national the whole time. I have traveled on:
- F1 (student) and H1B (Non immigrant worker) visas
- From India, Brazil, Japan, UK, Ireland, Canada
- While I worked for a corporate and a startup that turned into a corporate
- I have been single, no dependents, crossed the border solo each time
- Entered through Salt Lake city, Chicago, Port Blaine, Seattle and San Francisco points of entry
Questions related to my university
Where are you going?
– Utah State University
Where is it?
– Logan, Utah
What is your major?
– Computer Science
Which other universities did you apply to?
– Northwestern University, UC Sacramento, University of Colorado, Denver, USC, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Note:- My counselor told me that once a student, not from their practice got rejected because the immigration officer thought that the university they picked was not good for that course. I think they just want to make sure you care about quality education and not just getting to the US somehow.
Questions related to my company
Which company do you work for?
– Voicebox Technologies Corporation
What does your company do?
– It’s a conversational voice recognition software company. It’s like SIRI but for cars 🙂
What do you do for your company?
– I am software engineer
What was your first day?
– November 18th, 2014
How long have you worked for your company?
– 3 years now
How many employees does your company have?
Who is your client?
– Toyota, Lexus, Samsung, BestBuy
Note:- If you are working on a confidential project, say it is confidential and do not reveal the client. That could get you fired or worse. It is illegal.
If you are detained for not revealing, I suggest, call your lawyer. I have not yet worked for a company small enough that did not have or worked with someone with a law degree.
If they detain you for that visit, a common scenario is you can work remotely from India, your home country temporarily while your lawyer sorts this out for you. If your company has various international offices, they’ll put you there temporarily or permanently if possible. Most importantly, maintain your cool at all times. He’s doing his job. He could be new or recently dealt with fraud. I once worked with a confidential client and said so very sincerely and respectfully. Which led to the next question…
What is the release date of your project?
– I’m so sorry but that is also very confidential information.
If this information is not available on your official company website or the official partner website, it says so in your NDA (non-disclosure agreement with your company), it is confidential. Same situation as above. I don’t think the officer should be asking this question and putting you in a spot in the first place. These thoughts too, are best kept to yourself 😀
When does your contract with your client expire?
– I work on multiple projects. When one project completes, another one starts. I even work on an in-house project.
This might not have been the best or a complete answer. I am a full-time employee on my company’s payroll and not on a contract with the client would have been better. Also, I should have added that my salary and employment are not contingent on client contracts.
Where is your office?
– My office is in Bellevue.
Note:- If I would have worked remotely, I would say so and mention where my boss or most of the teams reports.
Where are the headquarters?
– Bellevue, Washington
How do I use your product?
– The voice recognition on a Toyota or Lexus is us. The SVoice app on a Samsung phone is us. You could ask it a question like ‘What is the weather in Seattle? and follow it up by ‘What about tomorrow?’. It will remember what you asked the last time and give you the weather in Seattle the next day.
Questions about me
What is your qualification?
– I have a masters in computer science
Where is your family?
– They are in Mumbai, India
What does your last name mean?
Do you like it here?
– Yes 🙂
This was after getting through an eight fold queue at San Francisco. I wasn’t sure anymore 😀
Questions about my trip
How long were you in Brazil?
– 2 and a half weeks
When did you fly out of Brazil?
– 3rd of April, 2016.
Please take into account any canceled or missed flights. I’ve bought cheap and shady flights and missed connections several times.
I’ve given one off answers too because of that and didn’t get in trouble. Phew!
What is the purpose of your visit?
– I have a job
Are you going to meet anyone there?
– <HR contact I had been working with/ name of my manager>
How long will you stay?
– Through my Visa expiry date
Are you traveling alone?
Are you carrying any weapons, combustibles, seeds, raw foods, items for sale?
Questions about my US legal status
Your Visa expires in 2 days. Do you have an extension?
– Yes. (Hand over the latest I-797 notice of extension)
Where do you live?
Useful Documents to carry while entering the US:
- Current passport valid for 6 months+
- Passport that has your current US Visa if different from your current passport
- Your I94 is likely stapled to your passport – that
- Current I-797 notice of action
- Current letter of employment that includes location of the company, strength, your full name, start date, salary and prospect and length of employment, that you work full-time 40 hours on the letterhead of the company signed and dated
- 3 most current pay stubs. I don’t notarize them or anything.
- G-28 if recommended by your lawyer
Note: – I carry only the first 3 and driving license while traveling within the US.
*ALWAYS* consult with your company’s lawyer before international travel. I’ve been blessed with the best 🙂 They will let you know intervals you cannot travel like when your H1B application is in progress etc. Hope this helps with some of the travel jitters!
P.S. Full disclaimer on everything I have said. It’s all true and worked for me. It may not work for you. I do not have a law degree or background. This article is to just give the readers an idea of what to expect.