Electronic Devices Subject to Search by Immigration

Beware – your electronic device may be searched and seized by immigration upon entry into the U.S.  U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that in the first six months of fiscal year 2017 (October 2016-March 2017), it searched the electronic devices of 14,993 arriving international travelers, affecting 0.008 percent of the approximately 189.6 million travelers arriving in the United States. The statistics include a month-to-month comparison chart of FY2016 and FY2017, which shows that customs officers at the border and at airports nearly doubled their searches of electronic devices of people entering the United States in the last six months.

U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) has distributed the document below (in italics) on the authority to search electronic devices, why the agency might subject an electronic device to an inspection, and what happens with the return or seizure of detained electronic devices.

Why You May Be Chosen for an Inspection

You may be subject to an inspection for a variety of reasons, some of which include: your travel documents are incomplete or you do not have the proper documents or visa; you have previously violated one of the laws CBP enforces; you have a name that matches a person of interest in one of the government’s enforcement databases; or you have been selected for a random search.

If you are subject to inspection, you should expect to be treated in a courteous, dignified, and professional manner. Because the border is a law enforcement environment, CBP officers may not be able to answer all of your questions about an examination that is underway. If you have concerns, you can always ask to speak with a CBP supervisor.

Authority to Search

All persons, baggage, and merchandise arriving in, or departing from, the United States are subject to inspection, search and detention. This is because CBP officers must determine the identity and citizenship of all persons seeking entry into the United States, determine the admissibility of foreign nationals, and deter the entry of possible terrorists, terrorist weapons, controlled substances, and a wide variety of other prohibited and restricted items. Various laws that CBP is charged to enforce authorize such searches and detention (see, for example, 8 U.S.C. § 1357 and 19 U.S.C. §§ 1499, 1581, 1582).

Return or Seizure of Detained Electronic Device(s)

CBP will contact you by telephone when the examination of the electronic device(s) is complete, to notify you that you may pick-up the item(s) during regular business hours from the location where the item(s) was detained. If it is impractical for you to pick up the device, CBP can make arrangements to ship the device to you at our expense. CBP may retain documents or information relating to immigration, customs, and other enforcement matters only if such retention is consistent with the privacy and data protection standards of the system in which such information is retained. Otherwise, if after reviewing the information, there exists no probable cause to seize it, CBP will not retain any copies.

If CBP determines that the device is subject to seizure under law – for example, if the device contains evidence of a crime, contraband or other prohibited or restricted items or information – then you will be notified of the seizure as well as your options to contest it through the local CBP Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office.

For more information on Electronic Devices Subject to Search by Immigration,

email Gail@GailLaw.com or call 1-877-GAIL-LAW or 407-292-7730.

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