When conducting a personal search, CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO) policy must be strictly adhered to. This Personal Search Handbook (PSH) sets forth OFO policy on when such personal searches are appropriate, and what procedures our officers must follow in carrying them out. None of those important CBP functions is covered or limited in any way by the PSH. These guidelines are not designed to be a deterrent in the agency’s mission, but a critical tool in performing one element of many duties.
Our responsibility is quite immense, but we have broad legal authority and many tools at our disposal, which include personal searches. Personal searches are significantly intrusive searches of a person to determine whether they are carrying contraband close to or inside their body. Knowing what constitutes a personal search is important, but it is just as important to know what a personal search is not. Questioning individuals is not a personal search; Searching through bags, a wallet, or other personal effects is not a personal search. In the performance of our duties, it is imperative to interact professionally and courteously with the public. As outlined in the PSH and in accordance with CBP and OFO policy, travelers may not be subject to a personal search based upon their race, color, gender, religion, or ethnic background.