I have promised you an article on the famous immigration to the United States. It went very well for us in Washington DC even though 2 of the 5 people in line in front of us were brought to “interrogation” rooms by an immigration officer.
On a FB group reserved for digital nomads, some (especially one person) had problems coming to the United States with a passport filled with stamps, showing that they are traveling permanently (1h30 of questions and answers). And speaking with the French people living in Canada, who during their trip were kept for an hour of interrogation at the border, we thought it was absolutely necessary to prepare ourselves a minimum for that.
Being Vietnamese, I have been confronted more than once with this kind of situation. Coming from a third world country, everyone looked at me as if I was going to do everything to stay in their country (even South Korea asked me for a serious exit ticket!!). So when I went alone as a Vietnamese (I didn’t have French nationality yet) to the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States… I always had a wad of bills with me, to throw at them if they dared to despise me 😀 ahahhaa
Joking aside, here are my advices to cross the border as smoothly as possible as digital nomads.
Come to the United States by plane
The French people living in Canada that I told you about were questioned for an hour because they crossed the border by car. If you can, take a plane, it will be much, much easier. If you have the bad idea to cross the bridge at Niagara, just to see the falls on the American side, forget it! Not only is it not visually worth it, but you will be asked a lot of questions.
Even Canadians who drive across the border are entitled to the same (bad) treatment.
Always tell the truth & repeat the answers first
JB and I passed in front of the immigration officer together.
The person who speaks English best, will answer the questions, to avoid any possible misunderstanding.
But in case of doubt, it is quite possible that they will take us to two separate rooms to ask us questions. It’s important that we have… the same answers. I know that JB is rather approximate about the dates, so before going to the US, I asked him very simple questions like: “how many days do we plan to stay on American soil? What is our itinerary? When did you come to the US for the first time ? For how long?”
As a nomad, you don’t have any customers in the US? The answer to the question “what do you do in the US” is always “I’m a tourist” (and it’s true). If there are other questions, the basic rule is: Don’t lie, always tell the truth and look them straight in the eye. The truth is always easier to tell, and agents know how to ask twisted questions to get the truth, so tell the truth from the beginning.
What are you doing in the USA? I’m a touristWhat
is your job? I work in this or that field.
What is your salary? I earn xx xxx$ per year (yes, convert to dollars because they won’t make the effort to convert to euros)
Attitude is important, the answers given must be sure, remain humble while being confident of your answers.
Get rid of the passport containing US “non-compatible” stamps
If you have the “misfortune” to have a stamp of Cuba, Syria… or what do I know, Iran on your passport? Ask for a 2nd passport, or simply redo your passport. We are lucky to have a brand new passport before our trip (because the old one had no more pages left).
Agents do not wish to bring in people who intend to stay and work illegally in the United States. They want to make sure that you know where to sleep tonight, that you have money so you don’t die during your stay, and that you will return home when the trip is over. So they need to be reassured on these points:
Have cash on you
If you follow our blog, you know that we always recommend having cash on you, just in case… (see this article). Immigration officers often hate people coming without a single dollar. They may find it suspicious. So when I was asked if I had any money on me, I always answer confidently, saying that I have about $xxx in cash, and money in my bank account, which I can withdraw with a credit card.
I have even printed out bank statements to show the balance of my accounts, just in case… (since we stay 2 months, it takes a lot of money) it’s very important especially if the person brings you to one of the “interrogation” rooms and you don’t have access to your account via 4G or Wifi to show them how you plan to finance your little stay in the States.
This is especially important for nomads who do not receive monthly salaries, but who pay themselves an annual salary => the balance of your accounts will justify your resources ( be aware that in the United States, to rent an apartment, they rather look at the balance of the bank account).
Always book an Airbnb/hotel the first few days
If you have friends and you sleep at their place => suspect. The reason for staying in their heads immediately changes from “tourist” to “visiting family and friends” and they go into interrogation mode.
If possible, book an airbnb or hotel for the first few days. It is necessary to be able to show them the reservation if necessary, and especially to know the postal address. They will find it very suspicious that you come with your hands in your pocket, in mode “ah I don’t know, my friends will pick me up at the airport, and will bring me to their house, we don’t know where”..
A French woman passing in front of us at the immigration, was hosted in couch surfing, and in 2 seconds she was sent to the interrogation room, with a livid complexion.
Know what you plan to visit
Between a person who has to point out the city he or she intends to visit on the map of the United States, and another who has to detail his or her itinerary… there are many stories about US immigration. If you are a tourist, the minimum would be to know roughly what you are going to visit, right? Open Google Maps and locate the points of interest.
Remember your last date of entry into the United States
The fact that you have already been accepted in the United States is a guarantee of quality. So remember all your stays in the United States and be prepared to tell what you did, how long you stayed, in which city etc. We were simply asked the year of our first trip to the United States (it was with another passport, another ESTA).
Buy an exit ticket if possible
It isn’t mandatory, but to be even more sure, we bought an exit ticket (to Colombia because we have to go there anyway), to prove that we have no intention to stay here.
Have a good trip!