I'm a recent HS graduate taking his first international flight alone in a the next couple of days.

I'm moving back to the US after nearly a decade to immigrate and eventually find a workplace, I've been stressing out on how I should respond to customs/border protection when they'll ask said question of "what's the purpose of your trip?" should I respond with "business"? I don't really know how to follow up if they question me with "what sort of business do you have" or any sort of question similar to that matter?

  • 3
    I'm assuming you're a US citizen? Sep 22, 2019 at 17:52
  • 2
    Yes, I am a citizen but I haven't been in the states since 2010.
    – Penguinz05
    Sep 22, 2019 at 17:55
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    If they even ask in that way, just say what you wrote “I want to immigrate and find a workplace” or simply “I am coming to the US to find work and move back to the country”. As a citizen it's your right, you have no reason to try to pigeonhole what you are doing in a category like “business”.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 22, 2019 at 18:06
  • 3
    @Relaxed that sounds like an answer. Though my first inclination would be to offer the one-word answer truthfully.
    – phoog
    Sep 22, 2019 at 18:08
  • 1
    It doesn't really matter what you answer because you're a US citizen? Do they actually ask citizens why they are coming to their home country? There shouldn't be anything to stress about because unlike non-US citizens you cannot be denied entry.
    – kiradotee
    Sep 22, 2019 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


Generally speaking, it's important to be genuine and always remain truthful. In this case, it's very easy since, as a citizen, it is your right to move back to the country. Unlike aliens trying to meet the conditions of their visa, you have no reason to try to pigeonhole what you are doing in a category like “business”. So if you are asked about the purpose of your trip, just say what you wrote “I want to immigrate and find a workplace” or simply “I am coming to the US to find work and move back to the country”.

In this scenario, CBP officers are more interested in making sure that you are who you say you are, enforcing customs rules and possibly detecting criminals than in the purpose of your stay as this is irrelevant to the entry decision for US citizens. They are just as likely to ask where you have been as where you are going. Do make sure you have a valid US passport to establish your citizenship and you will be fine.

  • 6
    Perhaps it deserves mention that the OP is obliged to carry an American passport rather than just one of any different citizenship he has. Sep 22, 2019 at 18:55
  • 1
    @HenningMakholm he is, but there's no penalty for failing to do so: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/85389/…
    – JonathanReez
    Sep 22, 2019 at 19:32
  • 2
    @JonathanReez: true -- though I was thinking more about how proving his citizenship at the border (so he's allowed to intend to immigrate) would be rather more cumbersome without a US passport. Sep 22, 2019 at 19:51
  • 42
    I might avoid using the word "immigrate", since as I understand it, in legal settings that usually refers to a non-citizen coming to live in the country. I would be concerned it might cause confusion or lead them to question whether you are really a citizen. Sep 22, 2019 at 23:14
  • 25
    I agree with @NateEldredge. "I have decided to return to live in the US." Sep 23, 2019 at 1:09

When my wife visited USA after years of living in Poland, question about reason of the trip was not even asked, or it went so swiftly I don't even remember*. She is a citizen, so the reason of her trip to her country was no problem at all.

Question that was asked, and topic that was explored by the officer was "What kept you away from your country so long?". You must be prepared to answer this question truthfully.

My wife had two reasons, and you seem to share one of them. When she told the officer that her reason was education she could afford without getting student debt he seemed to be quite satisfied. You needed to finish your high school, you probably got someone to support you there and no one in the USA, et cetera.

So, what you have to do is to think about honest and likely reasons you stayed away from your USA homeland this long, and why such reasons ceased to apply. It has to be truth, and it should be given in a way that rings no alarm bells on the border. They can't deny you entry anyway, but it will make it easier for you, for the officer, and for the people in line behind you.

* She was on the wheelchair then so I was allowed with her as an assistant for the disabled person.

  • Why would any of that be any of the officer's business?
    – Carsten S
    Sep 23, 2019 at 10:20
  • @CarstenS Organized crime prevention laws, terrorism prevention laws et cetera. As I've said, they shouldn't deny entry, but at the same time they may keep terrorism suspects at Guantanamo for decades without even pressing any charges, can't they?
    – Mołot
    Sep 23, 2019 at 10:40
  • To avoid trouble it seems like good advice to cooperate, I agree.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 23, 2019 at 12:12

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