You are currently viewing How to legally enter the United States

In this new blog we will explain how to legally enter the United States, the security regulations and the travel documents necessary for it.

If you or a relative needs legal support regarding this matter, contact our New Jersey immigration lawyers at Curbelo Law today. The firm has more than 10 years of experience helping national foreigners with these cases.

Requirements and how to legally enter the united states In 2024

Shortly after the alien books their ticket to the United States, they will be asked to provide personal information so that the US authorities verify their eligibility to enter the country. 

In general, the alien must meet the following requirements to enter the United States:

  • Have a valid passport or Green Card.
  • Have a current type of US visa or an ESTA that matches the information in your passport (this does not apply to Green Card holders).
  • You are not a threat to the United States.
  • You don’t have any entry bar.
  • Your intention is not to immigrate to the US (does not apply to Green Card holders).
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) border officials consider you eligible to enter the United States legally.

Documents To Enter The United States

The most important documents to enter the United States legally include:

  1. The passport.
  2. The entry permit, either the visa or the ESTA.

On some occasions, depending on the reason for the trip by the aliens, they will require additional documents. These might be:

  • Evidence of financial resources.
  • Return ticket.
  • Health certificates.
  • Evidence of fulfillment of the purpose of the visa. For example, employment contracts, student enrollment and others.
f-1 student visa

Do you or a relative want to study in the US? You may be able to apply for an F-1 student visa. In our blog you will find an article that explains step by step how to apply for this visa. 

Entering The US With Children

Aliens traveling to the US accompanied by children will need their own visa or ESTA permit. In addition, they must show that they have the right to travel with them. For this, it is advisable to bring the following documents:

  • Sworn translations of the birth certificates of each of the children.
  • Copies of identification cards and contact information for all guardians of the children.
  • Certified Powers of Attorney from other legal guardians.
  • Child’s consent to travel (can be signature, if possible).

Did you know that there is a program that provides protection from deportation for young aliens who entered the US illegally as children? You may be interested in reading the DACA application requirements.

Travel Forms For Flights To The United States

Foreign nationals traveling to the US must provide certain information to the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), CBP, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • TSA data request. For security, the airline will request personal information from the alien, such as: date of birth, gender and passport information.
  • API data query. Prior to departure, the airline must transmit the foreigner’s details and the address of their first stay in the US. To do so, an online form must be filled out (as requested by the airline). 
  • Customs declaration. With the CBP Form 6059B, the alien declares what goods, means of payment and food they will bring to the US For environmental reasons, an electronic declaration is used today.
  • Form I-94. CBP records the date of the aliens’ last departure on their electronic entry form. To verify this, aliens must go to the CBP I-94 website and enter their personal information.

Beginning in June 2022, the CDC no longer requires aliens entering the US to test negative for COVID-19 and to document their recovery from the disease.

Import Regulations

Aliens must comply with the following regulations to bring food, goods and means of payment to the US:

  • Cultural items. Objects of cultural value are only allowed with export permits and receipts.
  • Firearms. They are only allowed through an authorized importer, distributor or manufacturer with the approval of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
  • Foods. Only foods in unopened packages are allowed. For example, chocolate, flour, pasta and so on. Foods such as meat or dairy are prohibited.
  • Alcoholic drinks. The maximum amounts of alcohol depend on the state of the USA. For this, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) should be consulted for further information. 
  • Wildlife / game animals. Only with permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • Pets. They depend on the species of pet and the US state. Check the link for further information.
  • Medicines. Only US-approved medications can be imported for personal use. You must carry a prescription and contact the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in advance for further information.
  • Means of payments. Cash or its equivalent is allowed up to $10,000.
  • Gifts. Gifts are allowed up to a value of $100.
how to immigrate to the united states legally

Pet Regulations

If the alien immigrates to the US and brings dogs, cats, or any other pets, they must provide detailed documentation for each pet brought into the country. Some of these documents are:

  • Current health certificates.
  • Vaccines.
  • Blood test.
  • Special airline requirements.
  • Microchip.
  • Special permissions.

What Is The Process To Enter The United States?

On the day of travel to the US, the alien must arrive at the airport on time. It is recommended that they arrive with 3 hours in advance to carry out the following steps:

  1. Check in. You must check with your airline to travel to the US. This can usually be done online several days before your trip. 
  2. Security control. This includes hand baggage screening, body scanning or frisking. 
  3. Boarding and flight. After waiting at the boarding gate, you must wait to be cleared to board the plane.
  4. Landing and passport control. Once you land, you must remain seated until cleared to disembark. You then need to go to the waiting room in front of passport control and join the correct line.
  5. Baggage claim and customs. You must wait at the baggage carousel to collect your bag. After obtaining it, you have to go to the customs area.

When the alien foreigner has passed through the customs area, they will be allowed to leave the airport and be able to tour the United States.

First Entry To The United States With A Green Card

National foreigners entering the US on their first entry as a new permanent resident will not yet be with a Green Card in hand, but with an immigrant visa from the US embassy. 

This is because you first have to activate the issuance of the physical Green Card once you enter the US and deliver a series of important documents at the border. Therefore, the first entry is known as the “activation trip”.

Tips For Entering The US

As an alien you must:

  • Close your suitcase with a padlock. It is recommended that you use an official TSA lock. This will prevent your lock from being destroyed for records, as the authorities have a master key for TSA.
  • Weigh the suitcase before going to the airport. Any excess baggage will cause the rates to increase. Therefore, it is recommended to previously determine the weight of the luggage and then declare any excess with the airline.
  • Consider participating in the Green Card Lottery. These lotteries allow to shorten the application processes, the long waits and the interviews. Every year, the US government gives away 55,000 immigrant visas.
  • Clean up your social networks. To avoid lengthy interrogations and inspections when entering the country, it is recommended that social networks be cleaned. Overly critical comments or jokes about the US can cause problems.
  • Do not carry work credentials in your luggage. Unless the national foreigner is entering with a Green Card or a work visa, it is advised not to do so. This is because it may raise suspicions that you want to work illegally.
how to get a job in the united states while being illegal

Most foreigners believe that it is possible to get a job in the US while being illegal. However, this represents a big issue for them. Check our article where we will explain this topic in detail. 

Why Was I Denied Entry To The US?

There are several reasons why an alien may be denied entry to the US. Among these are the following:

  • Criminal record.
  • History of illegal employment in the US.
  • Medical problems that may pose a danger to the US.
  • Lack of vaccines.
  • US travel bar.
  • Misrepresentation with the ESTA permit.
  • The visa expired.
  • Missing documents.
  • Suspicious or strange behavior.

As a general rule, if a border agent considers that the national foreigner cannot enter the country, they will ask another agent for a second evaluation. If the second agent also denies entry abroad, this decision will be final.

Aliens are advised that when they return to their home country, they contact the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and use the Travelers Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) online form to request details about the decision.

Is It Possible To Enter The United States Without A Passport?

To enter the United States, a passport is necessary. ESTA travelers need a biometric passport, while American visa travelers need a temporary passport.

Green Card holders (lawful permanent residents of the United States), can travel to the US without the need for a passport. This is because the US authorities consider the Green Card to be a secure document.

Among the many requirements to legally enter the United States, is the passport. So it is essential to have one. Now that you know, you may be interested in knowing how long can you stay in the USA on a tourist visa.

how to live legally in the usa

What Is The Validity Of A Passport To Enter The US?

The traveler’s passport must be valid at least until the day of departure from the US, provided the issuing country is a member of the Six Month Club.

If the national foreigner’s country of origin is not on the list of Six Month Club member countries, the passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of entry to the US.

What Is Better To Travel To The United States, A Visa, The ESTA Or The Green Card?

Whether traveling to the USA with an ESTA or a US visa, it all depends on the purpose of the trip and the individual needs of the alien. For example:

  • For someone who wishes to travel to the US temporarily, the ESTA permit is faster and cheaper to obtain, but is limited to a 90-day stay.
  • If the purpose in the US is to work or study, then it depends on one of the specific visa categories for it.
  • On the other hand, Green Card holders have the permission to live, enter and leave the US freely. Plus, it gives them (almost) unlimited rights in the US

Would you like to have a Green Card and live legally in the United States? You may be eligible for one. We invite you to read our article on how to get a Green Card and thus learn about your possibilities.

How Can I Go To Live In The United States Legally?

To reside legally in the United States, it is essential to have an immigrant visa or Green Card. This can be obtained in various ways, so it is advisable to have an immigration attorney by your side. At Curbelo Law you will have the experience of a lawyer with more than 10 years of service and hundreds of successfully resolved cases.

What Do You Have To Do To Go Live In The United States?

There are ways to know how to emigrate and live in the United States as a Colombian, from Mexico or any other country. The most common ways to fix papers in the United States are the following:

  1. Through a US citizen relative and qualify for US family-based immigration.
  2. Marry an American citizen out of love and commitment. That is, the marriage is in good faith.
  3. Apply for and win US residency through the Green Card Lottery.
  4. Have $900,000 to $1,800,000 as an investor and aim to establish a business in the US to employ at least 10 US citizens for a minimum of 2 years. 
  5. Be eligible for one of the different immigrant visas. Such as:
    1. EB-1 visa.
    2. EB-2 visa.
    3. EB-3 visa.
  6. Being eligible for US immigration relief, such as the asylum process or a VAWA visa.
what to do to go live in the united states

What Is The Easiest Way To Immigrate To The US?

The easiest way to immigrate to the US is by obtaining a Green Card through the Green Card Lottery. To do this, go to the following link to the Diversity Electronic Visa Program.

There are other possible routes to immigrate to the United States. To evaluate your possibilities, do not hesitate to contact our firm.

What Does It Take To Be Legal In The United States?

In addition to knowing the requirements to enter, to remain legally in the United States, an alien must have a valid legal status. Either the Green Card as a legal permanent resident or a valid visa to work, study or remain in the US legally as long as you stay within the allotted time.

how can an illegal immigrant become legal in the U. S.

You can find more information on how to live legally in the USA in our article “How can an illegal immigrant become legal in the U. S.” 

Requirements To Live In The United States

The requirements to live in the United States as a Chilean, Mexican or from any other nation are generally the same:

  1. In most cases, the alien must have someone sponsor them or file an immigrant petition on their behalf.
  2. Wait until the petition is approved and there is a visa available in the respective category. 
  3. Once an immigrant visa becomes available, you must apply through a US consulate or embassy.
  4. Get a medical exam.
  5. Go to the visa interview.
  6. Wait for the decision on the application. 

Contact Our Immigration Law Experts

Foreign nationals who want to live in the US should not navigate the immigration process without legal help. This process is complicated and doing it wrong can compromise the possibility of living legally in the country.

To avoid making immigration mistakes, we invite all national foreigners to contact our law firm of Curbelo Law in New Jersey. The firm has professionals with more than 10 years of experience in these cases.

Call today so that the team of professionals at Curbelo Law can examine your possibilities regarding the requirements to legally enter the United States and/or any other immigration procedure.