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I have French and Canadian citizenship. Back in 2012, after a J-1 internship visa in NYC (under my French citizenship), I left the USA and went to Montreal before the end of my J-1. I then tried to get back in the US by bus purely for tourism purposes, and to my surprise the border agent denied my entry. His reason: I hadn't gone back to my residency country (which was France). And so they assumed that I was trying to settle as an illegal alien in US territory (I wasn't of course, and my plane back to France was leaving from NYC a month later, but I didn't have the reservation on me since I had no idea I was even doing anything suspicious.)

Finally, I stayed a month in Montreal, and went back to the US border (by bus) with my plane ticket leaving from NYC, and proof I had an appartement waiting for me in France (rent, gas bills, etc.). I pleaded them to let me get my plane, and they let me in, under the mandatory condition that I take my plane back to France (which I of course did).

Since then, I've been living and working in France. I have been back to the USA twice: once with another J-1 visa for another internship, and a couple of years later as a tourist.

The thing is: every time I've been back, despite having a J-1 visa or ESTA from the embassy, I've been put in the "back room" at the border, where a border agents asks you a lot of questions for quite a while. It's quite nerve racking, as every single time, I'm not sure I'll actually get in the USA.

This is even more problematic nowadays, as my current job in France will soon have me travelling to the US for business reasons. And missing a business deal because of an honest mistake I made in my early 20's would be quite a problem.

My question is this: Will this border denial in 2012 be permanent in my travel history/record? Is it possible to clean out this record? Is there a chance that it gets clean after a certain number of years? Or will I always be put in the "back room" for questioning for the rest of my life every time I try to enter the USA?

PS: I have NO criminal record. .

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    Do I understand correctly that you have two data points -- i.e., two entries, and those two times you got a secondary? And these two were even on different visa/waivers? This seems hardly enough to construct a pattern. – npl Feb 6 at 0:02
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    Lately there's been a backlash because so many Canadians come here, nest, and the hatchlings are automatically US citizens. – Harper Feb 6 at 2:30
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    Why bother with ESTA or a visa when you can use your Canadian passport and enter without one? – phoog Feb 6 at 4:02
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    @mckenzm oh, they don't use bank accounts, they just leave their deposits all over your lawn... – Harper Feb 6 at 7:25
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    Alexander, I think you may have missed the joke... – Ti Strga Feb 6 at 18:27
37

You can use the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program to help clear up issues like being delayed at the border every time.

After you file your application, you will have 30 days to submit any supporting documents you may have. If you need more time than that to gather documents, you should get them first before you file a TRIP application.

As part of the process, you'll be assigned a Redress Control Number. You should give this number to the airline whenever you book airline tickets to or from the USA.

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    Whilst there is no harm in submitting a TRIP request, it will most likely not help in this situation. The passenger is almost certainly being detailed due to their own VALID travel history, which is not what TRIP is designed to address. – Doc Feb 5 at 20:28
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    @Doc Are you sure? This person certainly had a black mark in their travel history by trying to re-enter so soon after leaving J-1 status, but after repeated visits and interviews it should have been cleared up by now, at least to the point where they no longer automatically send him to secondary every time. He's been admitted three times after the time he was refused entry. – Michael Hampton Feb 5 at 23:18
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    Who Should Use DHS TRIP? People who have been denied or delayed airline boarding; have been denied or delayed entry into or exit from the U.S. at a port of entry or border crossing; or have been repeatedly referred to additional (secondary) screening can file an inquiry to seek redress. @Doc – user 56513 Feb 5 at 23:58
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    @GPal I would submit proof of your travel when you originally left to Canada after your J-1 and when you transited the US back to France back in 2012. This travel is what they seem to be concerned with. If you still have them, copies of the original boarding passes are best. The online I-94 arrival/departure records only go back to 2013, so I suspect that because this happened in 2012 that this is why you keep getting delayed. Otherwise, anything you can provide to prove the dates when you were outside the US, both in Canada and when you finally returned to France. – Michael Hampton Feb 6 at 19:02
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    @Doc according to his side of the story, it is debatable if he should have been denied entry into the US at that time. And it appears the system addresses entry denials. – gstorto Feb 6 at 20:41
11

Yeah, you're probably on their shitlist now. Make sure you bring an excruciating level of documentation with you each time, to try to expedite the process. You might not be able to avoid being dragged to the dungeon, but you might be able to make the interrogation shorter with documentation.

Bring a copy of your employment contract, apartment lease, report cards for your kid's free public school, statements from the secu showing no charge for medical procedures, whatever the twisted minds of US Immigration can construe to be proof that you live somewhere else and like it. Something pertinent to the current work project that's sending you there will help too, and something showing most of your actual work is done in France, where you live..

  • Yes, every both times I went back to the US, I had all my documents proving I live in France with an appartement and a job. Even though both times I didn't have to take them out, as answering the questions was enough. – G Pal Feb 6 at 18:34
  • More documents might spare you at least some of the questions.. – George M Feb 6 at 19:56
8

In my experience as a business traveller that crosses the border more than 10 times a year, to/from Europe and to/from Canada: I have been screened at "secondary inspection" multiple times, probably more than 5 times. This secondary inspection is what you describe as the back room.

There is no obvious observable trigger/cause and we have never been denied boarding. After the series of secondary inspections we went through, there is nowadays no more secondary inspection. There is no issue at check-in or boarding and border crossing is smooth. Unless you are denied boarding, which is an entirely different issue, there should be no worry about secondary inspection and I would not recommend raising the issue.

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