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U.S. Immigration: Changed rules for electronic device searches

Reportedly, Customs and Border Protection officers inspected 30,200 mobile phones during the last fiscal year. However, as with many U.S. immigration law changes, new guidelines for cell phone searches were recently announced. The electronic devices of people from British Columbia and elsewhere who enter the United States may still be searched, but the powers of the border agents will be limited.

CBP officials say the agency’s searches aim to combat terrorist activities, export control violations, child pornography, visa fraud and violations of intellectual property rights. Inspectors at the U.S. borders will still be entitled to search these devices, but only the information on the phones and not anything stored in the cloud. However, they will no longer have the right to copy the data they find on devices, nor may they analyze the information via a connection to an external device.

As with any other laws and rules, there are exceptions. To ensure the safety and protection of the American people, border agents may perform more advanced searches if they have reason to suspect criminal behaviour. A CBP executive said the agency would continue to exercise its rights to search electronic devices responsibly, judiciously and in a manner that is consistent with the trust that the public has in it.

British Columbia residents who are planning to cross the border into the United States may have some questions about the procedures they can expect regarding searches of personal devices. An experienced U.S. immigration lawyer can provide the answers. At the same time, the lawyer can explain which information will be accessible by CBP officials.

Source:, “U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Sets New Rules For Searching Electronic Devices“, Vanessa Romo, Joe Rose, Jan. 5, 2018