Deferred Inspection Appointments for Green Card Holders Returning to the U.S.
When a green card holder returns to the U.S. after a trip abroad, they will need to answer certain questions from a Customs and Border Protection officer. If the CBP officer determines that they need more information, or if they suspect that the foreign national should not be admitted into the U.S., they may set up a deferred inspection appointment for the foreign national. This will be conducted on another day at a CBP office that is near the foreign national’s entry point. At the deferred inspection appointment, they will need to answer more detailed questions about their legal status in the U.S.
A deferred inspection appointment often happens when a green card holder is returning to the U.S. after an absence of more than six months. The CBP officer may suspect that they are inadmissible. Also, if a green card holder has been convicted of a crime (or merely arrested for a crime), the CBP officer may suspect that they are inadmissible despite their green card.
Preparing for the Appointment
You might want to consult an attorney if you have been asked to attend a deferred inspection appointment. During the time before the appointment, which is often about two weeks, you will need to gather evidence to address the concerns raised by the CBP officer regarding your admissibility. Evidence might include copies of any criminal records, which your attorney can review to determine whether you are likely to be found inadmissible. If you have a valid defense to removal, your attorney can prepare this argument in advance.
Form I-546, Order to Appear-Deferred Inspection
If CBP schedules a deferred inspection appointment, they should also provide Form I-546, which explains the information or documentation that will address the officer’s concerns.
Sometimes a CBP officer will make a mistake about a foreign national’s record of convictions or arrests. If the deferred inspection appointment is based on an error, the foreign national can bring a certified police clearance letter to the appointment. This will explain that you do not have any arrests on your record.
The Deferred Inspection Appointment
You should make sure to answer the questions from the CBP officer at the appointment truthfully. If you lie to the officer, you may face serious penalties, including the loss of any immigration benefits for which you otherwise might be eligible. If you have retained an attorney, they can accompany you to the interview and help explain your position or make any defenses to removal.
If the CBP officer determines that the foreign national is inadmissible or deportable, they will have the opportunity to defend themselves at a later court date.
The interview will end with the CBP officer making a decision about whether the foreign national can retain their green card status. If the CBP officer determines that they can keep their status, the process ends. If the CBP officer determines that they are inadmissible or deportable, the foreign national might be taken to a detention facility, or they might be released with a Notice to Appear for removal proceedings in an immigration court. (Convictions for certain serious crimes are more likely to lead to custody in a detention facility.) While the Notice to Appear will list the grounds for inadmissibility or removal, you do not need to respond to these allegations at the deferred inspection appointment. You will make your defense in court before a judge.
A foreign national who is released with a Notice to Appear will not be allowed to keep their green card. Instead, they will receive a parole card that will give them legal status in the U.S. throughout the duration of the removal proceedings. If you ultimately are allowed to stay, USCIS will return your green card.