Aug 20

Getting detained when passing through customs

It’s a problem for many legitimate H-1B and other business visa holders: you’re always being stopped for questioning. With US companies looking for ways to cut costs and bring in new talent there has been a proliferation of work visas for workers coming into the United States. This has cause an outcry among IT professionals, who claim the visas are being abused to only recruit cheaper workers in order to supplant their American counterparts. In response, the DHS has stepped up scrutiny of the visas and visa holders.

The problem has been especially bad for independent contractors, the self-employed and those working for third parties. Those unlucky enough to be detained can expect to be pelted with questions concerning salary, job duties, and almost anything that pertains to employment. Detainees are as a rule not allowed legal representation, though CPB claims that they are allowed to contact their consulate. Additionally, Customs and Border Protection (CPB) have even started random screening for all work visas.

There is one measure you can take if you think you’re being unfairly targeted. In 2009 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instituted a program called the Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). TRIP, in their own words, “is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs,” which is a roundabout way of saying you file a complaint.

TRIP has a list of complaints that commonly snare travelers and for which you may seek redress. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • Racial/ethnic discrimination
  • Missing a flight when you were trying to get a boarding pass
  • Unable to print a ticket at home or at a kiosk
  • Denial of entry into the United States at another time
  • Suspicion by a ticket agent or other airport personnel, who passed the name on to officials

To get details and begin the process go to the DHS TRIP. In order to file a complaint you will need a scan of your entire passport, and after you file you will receive a Redress Number. TRIP will investigate as to whether