Written by attorney David H. Stoller

Deferred Inpections - What You Should Know

This legal guide will discuss Deferred Inspections. This is a process that is often employed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to complete the inspection of a foreign national when it recognizes that an individual may have some type of problem with their immigration status when returning from a trip outside of the US. These issues may require resources beyond those available at an international airport and the inspection is “deferred" for another day.

The most common reason requiring a deferred inspection is a foreign national who travels outside of the US after having been arrested and prosecuted for a crime. Most of these individuals are permanent residents and often times have no idea what will happen to them when they travel outside of the US and then return. CBP has a number of resources at its disposal which match manifest lists and fingerprint scans with criminal records and this can often time result in a trip to both a deferred inspection and to a hearing before an Immigration Judge to determine whether one will be permitted to remain in the US.

This is how it happens. A foreign national is arrested and convicted of a crime in the US (or sometimes in a foreign country). The individual departs the US for a brief trip and when he returns, something raises a “red flag" in the CBP look out systems. Keep in mind that CBP is provided with manifest lists detailing the travelers on all carriers who depart a foreign country and intend on landing in the US. As well, the US-VISIT program provides CBP with access to law enforcement records through the use of fingerprints.

A foreign national returns from a trip abroad and information available to CBP suggests that an individual may have had some transgression in the past that could call their immigration status into question. Often times, this information can be coded and cryptic such that the CBP officer responsible for conducting the inspection can see a problem but may not have sufficient information to determine whether the individual should be permitted to return to the US without incident or be asked to appear at a deferred inspection.

What will happen is that the CBP officer should inform the foreign national of the existence of a problem and indicate that the inspection cannot be completed because information necessary to conduct the inspection is not readily available. The foreign national’s passport and/or alien registration card (green card) will be held and temporary evidence provided to the individual to permit him to remain in the US pending the outcome of the deferred inspection. An appointment letter will be issued requiring the foreign national to appear at a CBP office located near the individual’s home.

Information regarding the concerns raised by CBP will be transferred to the Deferred Inspections office and an investigation conducted to obtain required court dispositions and other paperwork which will assist the government in determining the extent to the problem. Often times the foreign national will also be asked to obtain the same documentation and to bring it to the scheduled appointment. At the appointment, a CBP officer will be assigned to the case and the inspection completed.

An important consideration is that the bases upon which a foreign national may be subject to deportation are much different from the bases upon which that same foreign national could be deemed “inadmissible" to the US and not admitted to the US as a returning permanent resident. Seems somewhat difficult to understand that an individual who may not be subject to deportation as the result of a conviction may be deemed ineligible to return to the US based upon the same set of operative facts, but this is the complicated way that US immigration law works. This is part of the reason why having the advice of a competent and knowledgeable attorney familiar with these complications should always be retained to provide advice on how to handle these concerns.

At the deferred inspection, the assigned CBP officer will review the available paperwork and make one of two determinations. Either the foreign national will be permitted to return to the US and the case closed out or the individual will be forwarded to the Immigration Court for further consideration of their case. Another important consideration is that CBP has the absolute authority to arrest and detain a foreign national who it believes subject to removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge and most times, bond is not available in cases such as these.

Important to understand is that a foreign national who is issued a charging document and whose cases is forwarded to an IJ for review is not necessarily going to be deported or otherwise refused admission. Often times, benefits exist under US immigration law which may permit a long time permanent resident to remain in the US despite having a criminal record. Whether such benefits may or may not be available is an issue that a well versed immigration attorney should be able to handle.

Individuals who are not US citizens do not have the right to have an attorney represent them during a deferred inspection. The local Orlando Office of Deferred Inspections will permit attorneys to appear at scheduled appointments, however different local CBP offices handle attorney representation in different ways. Knowing how the local CBP office handles such cases is important and any attorney who handles such work on a frequent basis should be able to provide an idea of the extent to which an attorney can assist in such a case.

Deferred inspections can often require multiple appointments to resolve. The Orlando office will often call individuals back a number of times before a case is resolved and this can often times be very frustrating. Hiring the right attorney to assist in a case such as this is very important and can greatly assist in understanding what is going on and where the case will ultimately lead.

If you or a member of your family has any run in with the Office of Deferred Inspections, consult with n attorney and get informed about what can happen. The best advice is to know what to expect BEFORE departing the US. Many of the problems that are created with cases such as these are the result of foreign nationals assuming that there is no problem when indeed there is and had the individual known what may happen, a different decision about whether the travel could have been made.

If our office can be of any assistance, please contact us and schedule an appointment. Get informed and make wise decisions. We are here to assist and to provide guidance and it would be our pleasure to review your case and to assist in suggesting appropriate strategies to avoid the possibility of a deferred inspection.

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