Visiting the US: No Papers Needed


About 362 million travelers (citizens and non-citizens) entered the United States in 2013 – from October 2012 to September 2013, the US government’s fiscal year.

From visa applications to departure and arrival documents that 362 million travelers have to fill up and complete – that’s a lot of paper work. Enter the online-dragon.

The US State Department has harnessed the web – not really to save the trees but more for security purposes. So do the other four countries with permanent migration programs: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

While the US has the nonimmigrant/temporary visa application (DS 160) online, Canada’s online application provides a user-friendly atmosphere. You would be asked about the reason and duration of the intended visit, whether you are visiting a specific family member who is either a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and more importantly if you have a job and/or business in the Philippines.

Of the 362 million travelers to the US, about “102 million were air passengers and crew, 18 million sea passengers and crew, and 242million incoming land travelers. At the same time about 205,000 aliens were denied admission at ports of entry (POEs); and about 24,000 persons were arrested at POEs on criminal warrants.(Not all persons arrested are denied admission, including because some are US citizens.)”

Three weeks after publication of the published rules, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP, the agency in charge of the admission process of temporary and permanent visitors to the United States) completed the online registration of temporary visitors to the United States.

Now, tourists, students, workers, business persons and other temporary or nonimmigrant visa holders entering the United States port of entries no longer need to present the I-94 Arrival/Departure Document in paper form.

And your itinerary, visit, arrival and departure from the US will be available online – for five years.

The process definitely saves trees and improves waste management. It also saves time of airline flight attendants in distributing the multi-part I-94 paper form to passengers asking individuals if they are tourists, green card holders or citizens.

Instead of distributing the paper form I-94s in-flight, before the plane’s arrival in the US, the temporary visitor’s passport will be scanned by a CBP officer at the port of entry. An electronic arrival record with data from the traveler’s passport will be stored in the CBP data base – the Nonimmigrant Information System (NIIS).

While the paper form is no longer in place, the admission process remains the same.

This means a temporary visitor or traveler must present a current and valid passport with the appropriate US visa (such as B-1/B-2 for temporary visitors for business or pleasure; F-1 for academic students; H-1B or H-2B for Temporary Workers). The traveler’s luggage will also be subject to X-ray machine inspection and the CBP officer will still ask about the purpose of the visit to the United States.

Travelers who appear to have either fraudulent documents, exhibiting suspicious behavior, possessing luggage not commensurate to the length of intended stay; possession of prohibited items, food, drugs, or those who could not provide clear and verifiable answers could be subject to further examination, called the secondary inspection.

If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot verify or is not convinced about the information you provide, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers. Your luggage will be off-loaded from the carousel, then opened and searched. A diploma, transcript of record, recommendation to someone in the US could lead to questions of intention to study, find work, and stay longer than what your original declaration was.

When that happens, be ready to be sent back to the Philippines on the first flight available. You would be informed that if you do not sign the papers as well as affidavit that had been prepared after your interview, you will be detained until your real reason for the visit is determined by an Immigration Judge.

The prospect of being put in jail, posting bail, hiring an attorney, appearing before an immigration judge almost always compels the visa holder to simply sign the affidavit admitting to the allegations and returned to the Philippines. The process of admitting the reasons for not being allowed to enter the US, instead of challenging the refusal in court is called “expedited withdrawal.”

This is commonly known as an airport-to-airport proceeding, an unpleasant experience and also results in the applicant virtually being subject to consistent refusal of any other nonimmigrant visa, especially the B-1/B-2 class. The CBP officer may offer calming advice such as, “Don’t worry, you can always apply for another visa again.” That is true, but what the CBP officer is not saying is that it is more likely than not that you will simply be wasting your time, effort and money. You need to pay P7, 040 (or thereabouts) each time you apply. Your application fee will not be refused. But your application would be.

A person not allowed entry into the US is not “deported” but “excluded.” A visa holder subjected to this proceeding was not admitted based on the visa he or she presented. Instead, the visa is cancelled and the person sent back without officially setting foot on US soil. A person who had successfully gone through the inspection process and granted a specific period to lawfully stay in the US is deemed “admitted.” If he or she is found to have violated the terms of his or her admission, such as overstaying or working without authorization, then he could be subject to removal or deportation proceedings. In that case, he would be “deported.”

In contrast to your itinerary and travel that the CBP says you can check online for five years, your record of exclusion as well as deportation will not be available online. But it will be on the CBP, USCIS, DHS and Embassy records permanently.

The only way you could get back to the US is when you are the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition by a US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent or sibling. And you would have to admit to the previous exclusion or deportation proceedings, ask for forgiveness or and confess before being granted absolution.

That would have to be on paper.


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  1. I say this as well that the Philippines should do the same process for foreigners entering. Let’s not make it easy and appear that we’re starving for their cash. Let’s make PI prestine and not appear cheap. All other countries are very strict and limiting number of tourist to avoid influx of criminals. It’s not all about money when you can easily be acquired. We should give tax-breaks to naturalize citizen from other countries so we can attract them to invest and acquire dual-citizenship bringing more revenues. Unlike other tourist they’re just there to enjoy with no longer term interest but R&R. PI Immigration should be revamped and I’ve seen their attitude with their fellow kababayan with distrust but when dealing with foreigner to my dismay they’re more respectful. That’s a stupid mentality disabling our tourism at its highest compared to some countries like Singapore, Thailand, China etc. wherein their citizen or balik-bayan are given more than the tourist who paid for their visa good for 2 weeks or 30 days.

  2. Its telling you dont lie or cheat to try to get into america. Thats the way it should be. Believe me if people wanted to come to the philippines like they do america & everything was as good here as it is there your politicians would soon put more stringent measures in place top stop people coming here. Plus once you can live in america you are allowed to own land there, but still you filipinos dont want foreigners to own land in your country. You are hypocrits & wish countries like america & all in europe would all collectively say we will treat you in our country the same was as you treat us in your country. That means forever when you live there you have to pay each year as well as re register every few years with all the costs involved & that you cannot own land in our country. You would soon then understand.