CBP Practice Alert: Water Damaged Visas and Passports

In the wake of two hurricanes that have brought massive flooding to Texas, Louisiana and Florida, many foreign nationals are reporting that their passports and visas have been water-damaged. Clients with water-damaged documents should be advised to replace them prior to traveling internationally (if possible) or ensuring that they allow time to apply for a new visa or passport abroad before attempting to return to the United States. The ink that is used in the documents does not hold up to water, and if the damage is apparent by looking at the document, there is a high likelihood that the visa/ passport will not be machine readable. People who seek reentry to the United States by air will not be permitted to board an airplane if their passports cannot be scanned. There is very little room for discretion for those entering by air, as the airlines will likely deny boarding before CBP ever sees the applicant.

Those who seek reentry by land may receive greater favorable discretion, as they may be granted a waiver of the required entry document (on Form I-193, pursuant to INA 212(d)(4)). Such waivers are granted on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the port, and there is no guarantee that it will be done in any particular case. In cases that merit favorable discretion (e.g., emergency travel due to hardship), attorneys may facilitate the process by having the client return to the United States through a land border port of entry and contacting that port in advance of the client’s reentry to discuss the case and explain why it merits an I-193 waiver approval. Ports will never pre-adjudicate admissibility, but entry may be facilitated by making this type of inquiry in advance. The I-193 waives only the lack of a travel document and does not waive any other grounds of inadmissibility which would require a waiver under INA 212(d)(3).

Source: AILA Doc. No. 17091431

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