CBP Handout on Inspection of Electronic Devices

In light of increased inspection of electronic devises at the border, CBP recently released a handout explaining why a person’s electronic device may be subject to inspection, the authority to search electronic devices, and what happens with the return or seizure of detained such electronic devices. The following is a summary:

Why You May Be Chosen for an Inspection. You may be subject to an inspection for a variety of reasons, some of which include: your travel documents are incomplete or you do not have the proper documents or visa; you have previously violated one of the laws CBP enforces; you have a name that matches a person of interest in one of the government's enforcement databases; or you have been selected for a random search. If you are subject to inspection, you should expect to be treated in a courteous, dignified, and professional manner. If you have concerns, you can always ask to speak with a CBP supervisor.

Authority to Search. All persons, baggage, and merchandise arriving in, or departing from, the United States are subject to inspection, search and detention. CBP has the authority to determine the identity and citizenship of all persons seeking entry into the United States, determine the admissibility of foreign nationals, and deter the entry of possible terrorists, terrorist weapons, controlled substances, and a wide variety of other prohibited and restricted items.

What Happens Now? CBP will provide you with a written receipt (Form 6051-D) that details what item(s) are being detained, who at CBP will be your point of contact, and the contact information (including telephone number) you provide to facilitate the return of your property within a reasonable time upon completion of the examination. The CBP officer who approved the detention will speak with you and explain the process, and provide his or her name and contact telephone number if you have any concerns. Some airport locations have dedicated Passenger Service Managers who are available in addition to the onsite supervisor to address any concerns.

 Return or Seizure of Detained Electronic Devices. CBP will contact you by telephone when the examination of the electronic device(s) is complete, to notify you that you may pick-up the item(s) during regular business hours from the location where the item(s) was detained. If it is impractical for you to pick up the device, CBP can make arrangements to ship the device to you at our expense. CBP may retain documents or information relating to immigration, customs, and 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, CBP will not retain any copies. If CBP determines that the device is subject to seizure under law, you will be notified of the seizure as well as your options to contest it through the local CBP Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office.

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