Top Three Questions US Immigration Officers Ask

May 22, 2019

The top three questions commonly asked by US immigration officers when we enter the US are:
1. What is the purpose of your visit?
2. How long are you staying?
3. How much money do you have?

Sometimes they also ask
4. Where is your husband (or wife)?
5. Where is your daughter (or son, or children)?
6. What sort of job (or work) do you do in the Philippines?

It is important to know their immigration rule.
I am not an immigration attorney but the following information could be useful:

Answers to their questions above:
1. Purpose of visit?— It is legal to say vacation, holiday, visit relatives, attend a wedding, attend a grand reunion, go to Disneyland, New York, Las Vegas. And in reality and with all honesty, these are really the things we Filipinos commonly do when we visit the US, aside from shopping in Macy’s, Costco, premium outlets, Target, Walmart, Ross, Marshall’s, eating in Chipotle, In & Out, Panda Express, Island Pacific and in Seafood City.

2. How long are you staying?
Those traveling on a tourist visa, you are allowed to legally stay for a maximum of 6 months, but you are not allowed to work or study. You cannot keep on traveling to the US and staying for 6 months every time because they will suspect you have nothing going in the Philippines and there’s a chance you would want to live in America for good. If you stayed for 6 months previously and you want to visit the US again, be prepared that they will ask you about your previous stay.

Most people stay for 3 weeks to a month. Older people stay longer to bond with their grandchildren.
If your purpose is attending a business meeting, then you will only be given a maximum of 30 days.

3. How much money did you bring? Magkano baon mo? Immigration officers are sometimes funny. When you tell them you have $3,000 they will suspect you are hiding more cash in your body, bag, luggage. They don’t believe you. If you say you have $500, they will think you will no longer go back to the Philippines and just live with your relatives and work in the US.

This is their rule— It is LEGAL to bring any amount beyond US$10,000 (total amount for the whole family traveling together) but you have to declare it. If you have $8,000 you are not required to declare it because it’s less than $10k but when you declare it, they will suspect that you have more than $8k. And why are you bringing a large amount of cash.

In this trip, the immigration officer placed our passports in a dark blue envelope bag with a combination lock and sent us to the customs officers to search our belongings to see if we have more cash hidden somewhere. We didn’t have any cash tucked away in our shoes, pants, bags. We will not benefit by telling a lie. And according to the two customs officers, we’re fine, because we were only bringing far less than $10,000. And we declared it.

When my children were little, I only brought $500 or $800 or $1,000. During those days, we could eat ninety-nine cents sandwiches. Today, a sandwich is $8.99 plus tax! 25 years ago a towel in JCPenny cost a dollar, and a pair of school shoes was $9.99!

Today, Edmund and I swung by In&Outfrom the airport and Edmund paid almost $20 for Double double, cheeseburger, fries, drinks, etc.

I bought cherries for $9, mulberries for $5, etc. I was down to 3/4 of my baon before Memorial Day and I haven’t even technically started my vacation!
What I am trying to say is that immigration officers should not be suspicious when Filipinos come and visit. We Filipinos love our families and we visit them and eat in restaurants, ubos na agad ang baon.

The Asian immigration officer got suspicious when he asked how long I would be staying. I told him the truth. I even have a printed reminder of my schedules so I don’t forget. He scrutinized each and every detail and asked about it.

There was a two-week free time before my travel to Massachusetts and he asked me what I would be doing while my sister is in the office. I’ve been wanting to take the Amtrak and explore the midwest but I am still trying to feel my energy level.

There is nothing in their law that bans sleeping, going to Costco, visiting classmates, going to Antique shops, hanging out at Starbucks, pretending to be drinking coffee but actually just wanted to use the toilet, just sitting and watching CNN. Sleep, sleep, sleep. catch up on sleep, get bored and blog.


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