What does it mean to be “Inspected”

The current USCIS Policy Manual defines “Inspection” as “the formal process of determining whether an alien may lawfully enter the United States. Immigration laws as early as 1875 specified that inspection must occur prior to an alien’s landing in or entering the United States and that prohibited aliens were to be returned to the country from which they came at no cost or penalty to the conveyor or vessel.[1] Inspections for air, sea, and land arrivals are now codified in the INA, including criminal penalties for illegal entry.[2]

To lawfully enter the United States, an alien must apply and present himself or herself in person to an immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry when the port is open for inspection.[3] An alien who arrives at a port of entry and presents himself or herself for inspection is an applicant for admission. Through the inspection process, an immigration officer determines whether the alien is admissible and may enter the United States under all the applicable provisions of immigration laws. 

As part of the inspection, the alien must: 

  • Present any and all required documentation, including fingerprints, photographs, other biometric identifiers, documentation of status in the United States, and any other requested evidence to determine the alien’s identity and admissibility; and
  • Establish that he or she is not subject to removal under immigration laws, Executive Orders, or Presidential Proclamations.[4]

In general, if the alien presents himself or herself for questioning in person, the inspection requirement is met.[5] Nonetheless, if the alien enters the United States by falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, the alien is not considered to have been inspected by an immigration officer. In addition, the entry is not considered an admission for immigration purposes.[6]

[1] See Section 5 of the Act of March 3, 1875, 18 Stat. 477. See Sections 6, 8, 10, and 11 of the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1084. See Sections 8, 12, 16, and 18 of the Act of February 20, 1907, 34 Stat. 898. See Sections 10, 15, and 16 of the Immigration Act of 1917, Pub. L. 301 (February 5, 1917).

[2] See INA 231-235 and INA 275. See Matter of Robles (PDF), 15 I&N Dec. 734 (BIA 1976) (holding that entry into the United States after intentionally evading inspection is a ground for deportation under (then) INA 241(a)(2)).

[3] See 8 CFR 235.1(a). See Matter of S- (PDF), 9 I&N Dec. 599 (BIA 1962) (inspection is the process that determines an alien’s initial right to enter the United States upon presenting himself or herself for inspection at a port of entry). See Ex Parte Saadi, 23 F.2d 334 (S.D. Cal. 1927).

[4] See INA 235(d). See 8 CFR 235.1(f)(1).

[5] See Matter of Areguillin (PDF), 17 I&N Dec. 308 (BIA 1980), and Matter of Quilantan (PDF), 25 I&N Dec. 285 (BIA 2010), which held that an alien who had physically presented himself or herself for questioning and made no knowing false claim of citizenship had satisfied the inspected and admitted requirement of INA 245(a); alternatively, an alien who gains admission to the U.S. upon a knowing false claim to U.S. citizenship cannot be deemed to have been inspected and admitted. See Matter of Pinzon (PDF), 26 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA 2013).

[6] See Reid v. INS, 420 U.S. 619, 624 (1975) (an alien who enters the United States based on a false claim to U.S. citizenship is excludable under former INA 212(a)(19), or INA 212(a)(6)(C) today, and considered to have entered without inspection).

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