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Denial of Entry into the United States Despite Valid Visa or Immigration Status

The executive order on immigration signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, affected many immigrants headed to the United States from seven particular countries, until a temporary pause was placed on it by a federal judge. This nationwide pause was upheld on appeal on February 4, 2017, and immigrants from the seven countries are now allowed to continue coming to the United States as further appeals are made to higher courts. The confusion caused by the executive order raised the question of what discretion United States customs and border protection agents have to refuse entry to travelers who have valid visas previously issued through the Department of State.

United States customs and border protection agents have to follow the policies and rules issued under law and through executive orders. Therefore, if the ban on the president’s executive order is lifted, these agents will again follow the language of that order. However, with or without the executive order, United States customs and border protection agents have broad powers to conduct searches and conduct inquiries of the people seeking to enter the country.

United States customs and border protection agents also have discretion when admitting people into the country, and in some cases they can refuse a person entry despite the person’s possession of a valid visa. Denial of entry usually happens for reasons such as possession of improper travel documents, stated travel activities that do not match those given for the visa application, smuggling prohibited items, and a history of criminal activity or immigration violations. A person who holds an expired visa will also be denied entry under that visa.

A nonimmigrant travelling to the United States who is refused entry and has his visa cancelled at the port of entry is usually limited in the way he can appeal the denial of entry. Denial of entry usually results in the person being returned to his home country, where he can try to get another visa through the United States embassy there. Immigrants with valid green cards, and who have not been away from the Unites States for long periods of time, have more avenues to seek an appeal of denial of entry based on a United States customs and border protection agent’s discretion.

The ultimate validity of the executive order on immigration is unknown at this time, and may keep changing until the case is heard before the United States Supreme Court. In the meantime, people with valid visas to travel to the United States should make plans to travel as soon as possible in case the executive order’s ban is reinstated.

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Any green card holder who was detained under the Executive Order and signed paperwork unknowingly, relinquishing his or her green card status can challenge the loss of rights, especially if the green card holder signed paperwork following false representation by border agents. For more information on what rights you have to challenge cancelled visas or a loss of lawful permanent resident status, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.


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