Navigating an Order to Appear for Deferred Inspection

Have you revived an order to appear for deferred inspection and are confused as to what exactly that means, much less what it entails? If so, this article will walk you through everything you need to know.

What Is Deferred Inspection?

This is a final inspection process utilized by CBP, or Customs and Border Protection, when a problem may exist related to a foreign national’s return to the U.S. on a green card or nonimmigrant visa. Whatever the suspected issue may be, the deferred part comes in because the CBP officer didn’t have the resources, availability, or evidence on-hand to clear up the matter as you were seeking U.S. entry following a trip abroad.

Common issues that cause a deferred inspection is an arrest or criminal conviction preceding a green card holder traveling abroad. While minor legal problems, such as a shoplifting charge or possession of marijuana charge, didn’t affect your status as a permanent resident at the time, it can cause a re-entry problem with customs once you leave the country.

If your status is flagged by CBP and they need more evidence for a re-entry decision, the officer will issue you a date and time to appear back at the airport’s deferred inspection office with the specified evidence. The deferred inspection is the final decision process of either granting you immediate entry or not. You likely will not be told of the two other possible outcomes:

1. An order to which to appear before the immigration court.

2. Placement in immigration detention, in which case deportation proceedings may begin.

What’s the Process for Ordering A Deferred Inspection?

CBP has access to all foreign flight passenger lists bound for the U.S. They also have the US-VISIT program’s database of law enforcement records at their disposal. CBP correlates the two sources of information to run background checks on passengers intending to enter the U.S.

CBP’s system may flag your status as a green card holder as questionable, but the officer may not have enough information from the system to make an immediate call on your re-entry. CBP will continue to search for the missing information, but, in the meantime:

  • CBP holds your green card and passport and provides temporary paperwork to document your legal status.
  • CBP issues you an order to appear for deferred inspection.
  • CBP tells you the issue holding up your re-entry and orders you to bring whatever evidence is missing from their inspection to the deferred inspections office at a certain time.

When you arrive at the deferred inspection, a CBP officer will be assigned to review your case and evidence and make a final determination on your re-entry.

How Long Do Deferred Inspections Take?

The officer you dealt with upon attempting re-entry will typically send your case to an offsite location officer who specializes in deferred inspections. That officer will decide how your case is handled and plays a pivotal role in how slow or fast it’s resolved. At best, you can expect an hour or two, but most cases involve wait times of five hours or more for a decision.

How Do You Prepare for A Deferred Inspection?

Every case is different, meaning you’ll need to read the order to appear very carefully and follow each instruction to the letter. Here are a few general tips to help you if the issue is a criminal conviction, concern of green card relinquishment, or proof of continuous presence:

  • Bring copies of certified dispositions.
  • Bring proof of moral character.
  • Bring evidence to support the importance/value of your admission to the U.S., such as strong business ties or family residents in the U.S.

Keep in mind that you can make a brief verbal statement at the deferred inspection, but the officer’s main inspection points are going to be the written documentation they’ve received. Ultimately, the best way to prepare for a deferred inspection is to consult a lawyer.

Consult A Lawyer When You Get An Order To Appear For Deferred Inspection

Whether it’s a green card for citizen for parents or an order to appear for deferred inspection, the laws surrounding immigration are complex and confusing. Again, the most common reason for CBP’s system to flag your status is if you’ve had a minor criminal conviction or charge. If you remain in the U.S., such offenses typically don’t leave you at a threat of deportation. Leaving and returning the country, however, can unknowingly leave your green card in great jeopardy.

If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s imperative that you know the legal processes involved, your rights, the potential consequences and judgments, and how to prepare your evidence for the best possible outcome. While your lawyer cannot go inside the order to appear for deferred inspection with you, your lawyer can help you with tasks such as preparing a cover letter to outline your situation and requests for relief and gathering an evidence package. Having a lawyer on your side also leaves you prepared should you be placed in detention for deportation.

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