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I am a student on F1 visa. My husband is working on an H1B. We are both Indian Nationals. At the port of entry, since our visas are separate (i.e. one is not a dependent of the other), we approach the immigration official one after the other i.e. not as a group.

(1) Has anyone with separate visas approached the official together as a family / group?

(2) When approaching separately, what to answer for the question, "Are you traveling with anyone?". Since I am not dependent on anyone and no one is dependent on me, it looks like I should say no. But, I am traveling with my spouse in the same flight, even though he is on his own separate visa. So, should I be saying yes? What does the immigration officer mean by this question?

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    Immigration officers will generally be using words in their ordinary meanings. If you're asked if you're traveling with anyone, it means exactly that: are there other people with whom you are engaging in the activity of travel right now? If they wanted to know if you have a dependent visa or anything else, they would have asked that instead. If you say you're not traveling with anyone and then they find out you're on the same flight as your spouse, they are going to, not unreasonably, think you have lied to them. If you booked your plane tickets together, they can tell that too. – Zach Lipton Aug 7 '17 at 19:50
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    Yes, you are traveling with your spouse. It's not a trick question ;) Yes, they would prefer you approach together because you are a family travelling together. That you have separate Visas doesn't matter. – Johns-305 Aug 7 '17 at 19:59
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    @Johns-305 Do you normally approach together when travelling with someone? I have travelled with my husband and we always approach separately. That said, we haven't travelled to the US/UK before, mostly only travelled in Asia. – user30833 Aug 8 '17 at 8:55
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    @stanri Yes. I always approach together with immediate family. Even with my non-Government approved spouse, we were happily processed together without issue. – Johns-305 Aug 8 '17 at 13:28
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    You are traveling with someone, so you should tell them you're traveling with someone. This seems pretty cut and dried to me. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Aug 8 '17 at 23:09
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The obvious answer is yes--you two are travelling together. You should approach together. The officer will ask you questions about your different visas which you should be prepared to answer. It's best not to overthink your situation. You should be fine as long as you answer all questions accurately (provided neither of you are violating your respective visa terms).

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    Upvoting because this should have been marked as the Answer. – Johns-305 Sep 14 '17 at 15:19
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"Are you traveling with anyone?"

Is generally a question asked to individuals entering on a tourist visa. As a resident, the question doesn't really make sense, but sometimes these questions get asked. I used to get confused by how long are you staying when I was an expat.

As with any question by an immigration officer, answer truthfully. Something along the lines of I flew with my husband who has an H1B visa would start the conversation and allow the immigration officer to decide what to do. He might process you separately, or he might want to process you together. In the future, I would approach the desk together. If the IO wants to deal with you separately, they will tell you.

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    Doesn't "I flew with my husband who has an H1B visa" carry a risk of being denied entry in the US on grounds that there's a risk you'd overstay? – Denis de Bernardy Aug 8 '17 at 13:07
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    @DenisdeBernardy why? She has a student visa. When her student status expires, she will be able to change to H-4 status. There's always a risk that any nonimmigrant will overstay, but here the risk is essentially negligible. – phoog Aug 8 '17 at 13:54
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    @rerab not everyone with a US passport lives in the US. – phoog Aug 8 '17 at 14:55
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    @reirab Actually they ask that because genuine people are taken aback by such a strange question. People who have rehearsed for entry (which in their eyes you would only do if you were up to no good) won't react to it. – corsiKa Aug 8 '17 at 15:50
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    @DenisdeBernardy: supposing that this was considered a factor for overstay, and therefore a significant risk of being denied entry, then you can be certain that concealing the information and later being found out will be considered a much higher risk factor. There is essentially no information which the IO would consider significant and which you're entitled to conceal in the hope that the IO's ignorance will prevent it affecting you. If you really want to be able to answer that question "no", don't travel with that other person! – Steve Jessop Aug 8 '17 at 17:32
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You may not have read the customs declaration form very carefully, or maybe you read it carefully but you don't live with your husband. The form's instructions specify that family members who live at the same address should submit a single form. This of course implies that you should approach the passport desk together, since otherwise one of you would be approaching without a customs form, and that isn't going to work well at all.

For this reason and for all the other reasons mentioned by other users, you should approach the passport desk together. If you do, you are unlikely to be asked whether you are traveling with anyone else.

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    Do you even fill in a customs declaration form these days? Now that there are electronic kiosks, you don't fill in a paper form if you're on VWP and not for the first time; I can't remember if you do on a visa since it's changed recently. – David Richerby Aug 7 '17 at 23:09
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    @DavidRicherby: as of early this year, I’m pretty sure I still got given a paper declaration form, flying into Newark from Europe on the visa waiver. – PLL Aug 8 '17 at 7:09
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    It depends on the airport (and the terminal). – etarion Aug 8 '17 at 8:57
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    @PLL OK. I've not been given one flying into Minneapolis last December or into Detroit last month. If you've entered on the VWP before and you're landing at a terminal that has the automated kiosks, you don't need to fill in a paper form. – David Richerby Aug 8 '17 at 9:39
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    @DavidRicherby I normally travel with my wife, who cannot use the electronic kiosks. (Neither can the OP or her husband, at least in most airports, as far as I understand it.) The last time I entered by myself, about a year ago, I flew to a terminal at Newark that didn't have electronic kiosks, so the fact that I hadn't filled out a customs form meant that I had to go to the back of the line after filling one out in the immigration hall. – phoog Aug 8 '17 at 10:27
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We've always been asked by immigration officials to approach the counter together. My wife is a US citizen and I've been on visa waiver and green card, which would mean I would go to a different counter than her if we were travelling separately. It may vary by airport, but that's what's happened every time we've asked.

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    My experience was the same, even when traveling with a girlfriend who lived in a different country from me. I am a US citizen, and she was not. – phoog Aug 7 '17 at 21:58
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    Ditto me (I'm UK, she's US), and I've been at various times on green card, visa waiver, and B1/B2. We always join the slow queue together, and pass through immigration together. – MadHatter supports Monica Aug 8 '17 at 7:59
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    @MadHatter what do you mean by "slow queue"? I have always taken my traveling companions with me to the US citizens queue, and when I went with the aforementioned girlfriend, was told by the passport inspector that we should continue to use the US citizens' line. So you and your wife can certainly do that if you want. Nowadays I usually go to the diplomatic visa line with my wife even though I am clearly not a diplomat. The rule seems to be that you can go to whatever line you want as long as one person in your party qualifies for that line. – phoog Aug 8 '17 at 12:31
  • @phoog so I'd heard, but we've never been entirely sure (and I've never, in 20 years, been told I could, as you were) so it's always seemed better to us to go in the queue that was appropriate for me, and she'd join me. We do the same thing the other way around at the UK border and although there we have been told we could use the EEA Citizens queue, once when we did that she got told to join the everyone-else queue. So these seem to be courtesy matters, rather than something that can be done by right. – MadHatter supports Monica Aug 8 '17 at 14:31
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    @MadHatter did you ever in those 20 years ask the immigration officer whether you could use the USC queue the next time? I was told only because I asked. Don't ask the airport staff shepherding people to various queues: I was also told by an immigration officer that "they don't know anything" and that I should "ignore them." Another point: mixed groups going to the USC line are extremely common. I routinely see maybe a dozen people around me in the line holding non-US passports. – phoog Aug 8 '17 at 14:40
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Usually when I traveled with my wife we approached both the immigration officer as we were traveling together and anything else would seem unusual to me.

N.B. We were both on VWP.

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    You both being on the VWP makes this answer completely irrelevant to the OP's situation and question. – AndyT Aug 8 '17 at 8:34
1

So, we recently traveled outside and re-entered US. And we approached the immigration officer together following the advice on this post :)

The officer asked questions pertaining to the trip and we answered them jointly. As for the documents, she checked mine and his separately since we are on different visas. And as for the, "are you traveling with anyone", needless to say, it didn't come up :)

Thanks everyone for your time :)

  • Thanks for coming back to report! Did you discuss with the officer your decision to approach together? (Also, with respect to my answer, I'm curious to know whether you submitted a single customs declaration form.) – phoog Sep 14 '17 at 15:11
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    I am Downvoting because the first Answer was already correct. There is nothing at all special tricky about this situation. Yes, a couple is travelling together. – Johns-305 Sep 14 '17 at 15:18
  • @AndyT Good catch. Clarification comment below. – Johns-305 Sep 14 '17 at 16:31
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    Clarification The top Answer is already correct. First Answer listed, but not first chronologically. – Johns-305 Sep 14 '17 at 16:32
  • @Johns-305 the fact that an earlier answer is correct doesn't mean that a subsequent correct answer should be downvoted. This is especially true for self answers, which I rather think ought to be encouraged. A downvote should not be used to punish the asker of the question for exercising her privilege to accept her own answer. – phoog Sep 14 '17 at 18:05

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