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CBP Search Authority

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer's border search authority is derived from federal statutes and regulations, including 19 C.F.R. 162.6, which states that, "All persons, baggage and merchandise arriving in the Customs territory of the United States from places outside thereof are liable to inspection by a CBP officer." Unless exempt by diplomatic status, all persons entering the United States, including U.S. citizens, are subject to examination and search by CBP officers.

It is not the intent of CBP to subject travelers to unwarranted scrutiny. Let me assure you that CBP inspection procedures are designed to facilitate the entry of U.S. citizens and aliens who can readily establish their admissibility. CBP officers must determine the nationality of each applicant for admission and, if determined to be an alien, whether or not the applicant meets the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act for admission to the United States. CBP officers may, unfortunately, inconvenience law-abiding citizens in order to detect those involved in illicit activities. We are especially aware of how inconvenient and stressful the inspection process may be to those selected for inspection. In such cases we rely heavily on the patience, understanding, and cooperation of the traveler.

Speaking with travelers and closely examining their documentation are some of the ways we look for mala fide or improperly documented travelers. We rely upon the judgment of our individual CBP officers to use their discretion as to the extent of examination necessary. However, CBP officers are expected to conduct their duties in a professional manner and to treat each traveler with dignity and respect.

CBP Officers use diverse factors to refer individuals for targeted examinations and there are instances when our best judgments prove to be unfounded. Although CBP does use information from various systems and specific techniques for selecting passengers for targeted examinations, a component of our risk management practices is the use of a completely random referral for a percentage of travelers.

Many travelers wonder if CBP is alerted when an inbound passenger has a warrant for their arrest issued. Yes, CBP is alerted. In the air passenger environment, air carriers transmit passenger information to CBP through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS). CBP officers also rely on the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) to determine which individuals to target for secondary examination upon arrival in the United States.

CBP, along with law enforcement and regulatory personnel from 20 other Federal agencies or bureaus, use IBIS. Some of these agencies are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Interpol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, Secret Service, and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. Information from IBIS is also shared with the Department of State for use by Consular Officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

IBIS assists the majority of the traveling public with expeditious clearance at ports of entry while allowing the border enforcement agencies to focus their limited resources on potential non-compliant travelers. IBIS provides the law enforcement community with access to computer-based enforcement files of common interest. It also provides access to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and allows its users to interface with all 50 states via the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems.

IBIS resides on the TECS at the CBP Data Center. Field level access is provided by an IBIS network with more than 24,000 computer terminals. These terminals are located at air, land, and sea ports of entry.

IBIS keeps track of information on suspected individuals, businesses, vehicles, aircraft, and vessels. IBIS terminals can also be used to access NCIC records on wanted persons, stolen vehicles, vessels or firearms, license information, criminal histories, and previous Federal inspections. The information is used to assist law enforcement and regulatory personnel.

CBP has the authority to collect passenger name record information on all travelers entering or leaving the United States. This information is strictly used for preventing and combating terrorism and serious criminal offenses with the principal purpose of facilitating the CBP mission to protect our Nation's borders through threat analysis to identify and interdict persons who have already committed or may potentially commit a terrorist act in the future.

Should CBP determine that an error exists within our system of records, corrective measures will be taken.

Last Modified: Jun 30, 2023