I'm an American citizen and will soon relocate to the US for work. I currently work in Italy.

My girlfriend will come in September and stay 3 months with me.

What is the best thing for her to say to the border patrol when she comes over?

  • 45
    She can tell the truth. May 22, 2017 at 18:37
  • 8
    Why are you worried about what to say? (By the way, the officers you will encounter are not Border Patrol officers; they are a different part of Customs and Border Protection.)
    – phoog
    May 22, 2017 at 18:40
  • 3
    What's the problem with telling the truth?
    – Niko
    May 23, 2017 at 3:46
  • 33
    Why does everyone assume that the "best thing to say" refers to a choice of what lie to tell, rather than the best manner of presenting the truth? Yes, what to say is something people worry about when planning to go to the USA.
    – Kaz
    May 23, 2017 at 3:48
  • 5
    @SheikPaulofOsawatomie: You make it sound like only liars should worry about what responses they give. Really? If they ask you why you'll return in 3 months, you can either tell them about the job/school you have to return to at home, or you can tell them about the murder whose trial you were ordered to attend in 3 months. Both of them are "the truth", and maybe the second one is an even better reason to return, but only an idiot would volunteer the latter response, even if she's innocent of any wrongdoing. Especially if she's innocent of any wrongdoing.
    – user541686
    May 23, 2017 at 8:55

6 Answers 6


She should tell the truth, as being caught in a lie can have serious consequences, including being barred from the US.

The other thing she needs to do is have her story straight, and lots of evidence to back it up, as to why she will go home after 3 months and not stay illegally in the US. This includes how she can take three months off from whatever she normally does back home.

  • 30
    "...and lots of evidence to back it up, as to why she will go home after 3 months and not stay illegally in the US" - I cant stress enough the importance of this.
    – bobbyalex
    May 23, 2017 at 1:37
  • 13
    Be honest, but don't offer answers to any questions you haven't been asked.
    – Dancrumb
    May 23, 2017 at 2:39
  • 8
    Absolutely. Good evidence for 3 month stay is financial means plus return tickets. If she has a job back home, evidence of her filed leave would be great.
    – Shiv
    May 23, 2017 at 5:30
  • 1
    +1 Immigration officials are required to suspect she will overstay her visa, work illegally (and refuse her entry) - she needs to be ready to substantiate that she will return back. Have documentation about her leave from work, active bank account, rental in Italy. Return ticket is a must. May 23, 2017 at 14:44

I've had my (now wife) visit me several times. I'm American, she is Irish. She visited me at least 5 times, if not more, before we got married on official fiancé visa. Sometimes I was with her coming over, sometimes she was alone. Sometimes she was greeted with kindness, and others interrogated with malice (I was with her that time :/). It's a coin-flip as to which your girlfriend will have. These were all 90 day visits, same as you.

While I'd also suggest the truth as others here, I'll also throw in that she doesn't have to disclose all the details. They might just raise more questions that are irrelevant to her coming for a visit.

As far as border folks are concerned, you are a US Citizen working in the US. Period. Mentioning recent relocation and all that will just prompt more questions. They're looking at her and her intentions on coming over. Will she take any American jobs, get on welfare, bring in extra family members, terrorism, etc.

In one of our visits, my girlfriend was taken into the little room, needlessly interrogated about marriage and future immigration which ended with the agent throwing the passport back at her saying "get out of here before I change my mind". That situation prompted the getting officially married idea.

On that point, make sure she doesn't mention anything about getting married or being your fiancé; whether it's true or not. You should definitely not plan on getting married this vacation, but anything said that might even hint at the possibility of an un-approved immigration or anything like that will cause delay and more questions. Your relationship status should be private beyond that it actually exists.

So, to sum up: she is just your girlfriend. She will be visiting you, an average working American Citizen for 3 months. No plans for marriage, just having some fun spending money in America. She has a return ticket booked for 90 days from then.

It's true info, and doesn't raise further questions to complicate the entry process. Most border folks are grand, but often will start asking further when you mention irrelevant details.

Once, I messed up and mentioned a bottle of Absinthe I was brining back (it was legal). They had to go get my luggage and inspect the bottle while I waited for 45 mins only for them to say it was ok. I should've just kept my mouth shut.

  • 15
    Similarly, my first time going through a gate alone (Toronto to Tel Aviv), my luggage contained a rosary from a friend who'd bought it there and wanted it exchanged as a joke. When the agent asked, "Has anyone given you anything to bring over?" I naïvely answered yes. They detained me, searched my luggage, managed to spill laundry detergent on everything, and finally removed all my electronics and shipped them to me a week later (including my phone charger in an era before standardized USB chargers). The correct answer was no. They don't need to know backstories of unsuspicious objects... May 23, 2017 at 3:30
  • 1
    @LukeSawczak Actually I disagree with that. If you have something that someone else gave you then the answer is yes. Are you willing to stake your life on the assumption that that person wasn't forced to give you something dangerous.
    – theblitz
    May 23, 2017 at 9:22
  • 2
    @theblitz with the 'correct' application anything can be a dangerous object. The spirit of the question is that they want to know if there's anything in your luggage that might warrant checking to see if it's contraband or 'conventionally' dangerous like explosives, poison, a weapon, etc. and I'd say that's how it should be answered.
    – Cronax
    May 23, 2017 at 11:16
  • 1
    My rule is always simple: If you give me something to take for you then it must be open and I have the right to look inside to see what it is. Even if it just a letter.
    – theblitz
    May 23, 2017 at 11:36
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    Unpopular opinion, I know, but imo the correct answer is: Don't visit countries that treat people that way just because they're honest. After saying "yes", a normal reaction would be "what is it?", and not detaining people, confiscating+destroying stuff etc. ... If they don't want tourists etc., they can keep it up.
    – deviantfan
    May 23, 2017 at 12:46

When I was a student I had an American girlfriend and my conversation lasted exactly 2 minutes every single time, so my first bit of advice is don't panic. The questions I was asked were:

  1. Reason for visiting.
  2. How long I was staying.
  3. How was I able to get ninety days off work and how did I intend to fund my stay.

I answered truthfully that I was visiting my girlfriend, I would be staying for ninety days and as a student I didn't need to return to my studies until September. I told them that as I was staying with her family my living expenses were quite low but I had X amount available and a credit card.

They then waved me through without a backwards glance. I should add that I entered the US three times like this in the summer, once in the spring and twice at Christmas over a four year span and never had a single issue.

There will always be a lot of horror stories but when you read them they mostly come from oversharing. I sometimes feel that border control is one of those occasions in society that us introverts get ahead!


At CBP, always speak the truth, because lies could bring anyone toward critical circumstances,

if she don't have any wrong intention, she can explain her purpose of visit, sometimes CBP officers are nice too.

Good luck!

  • The question was more likely what truth to tell, not whether to tell the truth.
    – user541686
    May 23, 2017 at 9:02

As noted by DJClayworth and others, the border agents are very concerned that her trip will not turn into an illegal stay. For an example of a similar situation going poorly, and the reasons for it, see: http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/incidents/molly-hill-reveals-how-dream-trip-to-hawaii-turned-into-a-nightmare/news-story/b3833259e7ffe3e130dbf73c852f2f82

  • 7
    Please summarise information in external sites instead of just linking to them, otherwise your answer will be useless after the link breaks. May 23, 2017 at 8:15

Some personal experience and a checklist of things you will want to have on hand (in order of importance). I had a girlfriend visit me from out-of-country many times and this was always what they were most interested in.

  1. Proof you will leave the country. Have copies of your plane tickets home or proof of purchase.

  2. Carry cash or other funds on you (with proof if possible). Try to have enough to cover your stay.

  3. Know where you are staying, full address and who lives there (note: a roommate who was not mentioned answering the phone and does not know is a big red flag).

  4. Tell the truth, if they catch you in a lie it will be much worse.

  5. Don't bring anything inappropriate across the border (as it might give them more reason to refuse entry).

  6. Make sure your stories are straight and if possible be available for a call from the border agent. They will sometimes call to confirm the story.

  7. You don't need to, but cleaning out your phone/laptop of anything incriminating might be a good idea (as they can request to review it and read your messages/etc).

  • Thank you guys. I forgot to mention that she has already been once with me to the US. Does that help? Furthermore she doesn't even speak English, is that a plus for customs?
    – Cheesnut
    May 23, 2017 at 19:07
  • @Cheesnut Having been to the US before is a big plus. It means she left the country previously and has a history already (e.g. she has already left properly in the past). Just be careful with the amount of time (make sure she is not staying longer then they allow). I am not sure on the non-English speaking though, as that may be an issue if no-one at the border speaks her language. May 23, 2017 at 19:44

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