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Q. Do US border inspectors demand passwords and inspect phones and laptops?

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) searched 14,993 electronic devices during the six-month period between October 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, according to an ‘agency press release issued on April 11, 2017. The press release did not reveal how many of those devices, if any, were seized as evidence.

The CBP’s numbers constitute a dramatic increase compared to the 19,033 searches of electronic devices conducted during the 12-month period commencing on October 1, 2015, and ending on September 30, 2016 (up from 8,502 searches during the prior 12 months).

The CBP’s border search authority is considered by the agency to require no warrant, a position that has been upheld in federal appellate courts. The CBP has stated that it adjusts the level of search activity to align with current threat information regarding terrorist activity, child pornography, violations of export controls and intellectual property rights and visa fraud.

“These searches, which affect fewer than one-hundredth of one percent of international travelers, have contributed to national security investigations, arrests for child pornography and evidence of human trafficking,” stated John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations. “CBP officers are well trained to judiciously conduct electronic device searches and to protect sensitive information that may be encountered.”

The CBP has an information sheet, titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices,” which agents provide to travelers whose property is being searched detailing the various reasons individuals are selected for a search, including:

  • Travel documents incomplete
  • Does not have proper documents or visa
  • Previously violated one of the laws the CBP is charged with enforcing
  • Name matches that of a person of interest in one of the government’s enforcement databases
  • Randomly selected

The CBP advises that the agent retain a device, along with copies of any documents or information in the possession of the person who was searched relating to immigration, customs or 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, the CBP states that the agency return the device and not retain copies of any documents seized.

The information sheet explains:

“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.”

The information sheet also addresses privacy and civil liberties protections during the conduct of border searches.

The full text of the April 11 press release is available at the US CBP website and the published agency’s information sheet can be found here.

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Q. Do US border inspectors demand passwords and inspect phones and laptops?

United States Starts Optimized Processing for Canadian Citizen TN and L Visas under NAFTA

Joint Canada US Customs Plaza

Starting in mid-September 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency (“CBP”) began optimizing processing for first-time Canadian TN and L applicants coming under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The stated goal is to provide more efficient processing through designated ports of entry.  The CBP has not explained exactly how processing will be optimized (e.g., staffing will be increased, a Free Trade Officer will be designated for processing) and the program is too new to see the results.   Standard processing remains possible at any port of entry, but the new optimized processing is only available at:

  • Toronto’s Pearson International Airport
  • Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport
  • Vancouver International airport
  • Calgary International Airport
  • Vermont’s Highgate Springs Port of Entry
  • Vermont’s Derby Line Port of Entry
  • NY’s Alexandria Bay Port of Entry
  • Buffalo’s Peace Bridge Port of Entry
  • Niagara Falls’ Rainbow Bridge Port of Entry
  • NY’s Champlain Port of Entry
  • Detroit Canada Tunnel Port of Entry
  • Detroit Ambassador Bridge Port of Entry
  • Washington’s Blaine Peace Arch Port of Entry
  • Montana’s Sweetgrass Port of Entry

Alternatively, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (“CIS”) accepts TN and L visa petitions filed via post or courier.  Processing times are slower and government filing fees are higher, so this option is generally not very attractive.  On the plus side, the consistency in the manner of processing, as well as the ability to process the application and get a decision in advance without arriving at the airport with tickets in hand only to be denied the visa status at the last moment, makes CIS a welcome alternative to consider for more difficult cases.

On the plus side, the consistency in the manner of processing, as well as the ability to
process the application and get a decision in advance without arriving at the
airport with tickets in hand only to be denied the visa status at the last
moment, makes CIS a welcome alternative to consider for more difficult cases.

For more details, contact your Dentons lawyer and see the CBP web site.

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United States Starts Optimized Processing for Canadian Citizen TN and L Visas under NAFTA